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Otter and Allred on election issues

Here’s a look at how Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and Democratic challenger Keith Allred differ on big issues in the race:

• SCHOOL FUNDING: Otter approved an unprecedented 7.5 percent cut for public schools this year; he said it was unavoidable in the state’s budget crunch, and that when the economy improves, schools will be the first to get funding back. Allred says the cut was unneeded, as the state low-balled the revenue estimates used to set the budget and could have filled vacant tax auditor positions to collect taxes due but not collected. He pledges to protect schools from budget cuts.

• TAXES: Allred calls for reviewing all existing tax exemptions and eliminating those that no longer make sense; he’d use the savings to lower overall tax rates, especially the state’s income tax rates. Otter says all the exemptions were “put in place for a reason,” but he’d be willing to consider proposals from the Legislature. He warns that if Allred moves to apply Idaho’s sales tax to items that are now exempt, “that will include the bake sales at the church.” Allred says many exemptions go to the politically powerful who lobby for them.

• GOVERNING: Allred wants to present “issue briefs” to a large cross-section of Idahoans, and have them study those and weigh in to determine what policy is in the “common interest,” as he did with the 1,600 members of his The Common Interest citizen lobbying group. Then, as governor, he’d champion those positions that had strong support. Otter counters that the state Legislature already represents Idahoans across the state who elect its members, and says he partners with lawmakers to make policy.

• TRANSPORTATION: Otter called for raising gas taxes and registration fees to fund more road work, saying the state isn’t adequately maintaining its infrastructure. Allred called for lowering the gas tax by 3 cents a gallon and raising fees on heavy trucks to make up the difference, since state studies show trucks underpay for their wear and tear on roads.

• MEGA-LOADS: Otter has been an enthusiastic proponent of plans to bring oversize shipments of oil equipment by barge to the Port of Lewiston, then across scenic U.S. Highway 12 along the Lochsa and Clearwater rivers through Montana to Canada for the Alberta oil sands project. After outcry from area residents, he backed a $10 million bond requirement for oil companies with mega-load shipments to reimburse the state for any damage along the route. Allred opposes the mega-loads, which he says raise unanswered safety, economic and environmental questions, and says Otter didn’t listen to broad enough input before signing on to the idea.

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