BOISE – It seemed fitting that when Gov. Butch Otter spoke to the annual convention of the Idaho Licensed Beverage Association last week, the meeting was in the “Characters” bar and lounge at a Boise hotel. The first question the group had for the governor: whether he’d support privatizing liquor sales in Idaho, as Washington did.
Otter noted how Idaho liquor stores have profited from cross-border sales since Washington’s move, because of price differences as that state saw liquor prices rise. “Some of these other states … are dealing themselves a bad hand because they try hard to be progressive,” Otter said. “Not as long as I’m governor, that ain’t gonna change.”
His comment drew a quick burst of applause and laughter from the group, which represents bar operators.
The association opposes privatization; its official stance, from its website: “We believe that the quota system is a system that works for Idaho and we find it unnecessary to have liquor on shelves in grocery stores where it would be easily accessible to children.”
Otter rejected a suggestion from a group member that Idaho should follow Oregon and Montana in allowing video poker in its bars. He had no answer on how to help holders of highly valued state liquor licenses retain their value. Otter noted that he proposed reforms to the liquor license system several years ago, but they were rejected.
“You didn’t like the answer I had then, so you guys figure it out,” he said. “Somebody’s got to come up with an idea.”
Hoaglun joining hospital group
Brad Hoaglun, longtime communications director for Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, former top aide to then-state Controller Donna Jones and then-Boise Mayor Dirk Kempthorne, longtime Idaho GOP official and current Meridian city councilman, has been named director of communications and public relations for St. Alphonsus Health System.
Hoaglun is a longtime Meridian resident and a College of Idaho graduate; he’s also been a small-business owner and director of government relations for the American Cancer Society. He starts his new post with St. Alphonsus on Monday.
Heavy truck rules
More than 30 people turned out for a public comment session on heavy-truck rules in Lewiston last week, while 19 attended a session in Coeur d’Alene. Comments at the Coeur d’Alene hearing were mostly positive about the new rules, though Shoshone County and the Worley Highway District raised some concerns about their funding constraints.
The Idaho Legislature this year passed new laws making permanent a 10-year pilot project allowing trucks up to 129,000 pounds on 35 specific Southern Idaho routes, plus another law allowing additional heavy-truck routes to be designated statewide.
Four new rules to implement those laws are the subject of the rule-making hearings; the Transportation Department also is taking public comment on the rules through Oct. 24 by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lewiston city officials questioned why the process for approving new routes calls for public testimony only after the ITD board has made its decision on a proposed route based on engineering studies, the Lewiston Tribune reported. Lewiston City Councilman Dennis Ohrtman said after that point, “You have the chief engineer taking public testimony and including that in his recommendation, but if he says do it, the ITD board has no more say.”
On local routes, haulers would have to apply to the local road jurisdiction. ITD Motor Vehicle Division Administrator Alan Frew told the Lewiston crowd that local officials could require applicants to help fund studies to determine if the routes can handle the loads. The current limit on truck weights in Idaho, outside the designated routes, is 105,500 pounds.
September revenues surge
Idaho’s state tax revenue surged nearly $16 million ahead of forecasts in September, beating the forecast by 6.4 percent. The extra revenue was more than enough to offset shortfalls for the past two months, putting the state 1.6 percent ahead of forecasted revenue for the fiscal year to date.
Nearly every revenue category beat its projection in September. Individual income tax receipts were 11.3 percent ahead; corporate taxes were 5.5 percent over forecasts; and sales taxes beat forecasts by 3.2 percent.