Latest from The Spokesman-Review
Statement issued by Butch Otter as he signed Tom Luna's “education reform” bills into law: “I had the privilege of signing into law today two bills that have been a long time coming, have been publicly vetted and debated to an unprecedented degree, and will improve the ability of our public schools to fulfill their mission of educating Idaho’s children. But our work is not done. We are committed to continuing our work with lawmakers and stakeholders on legislation to provide students and educators with the technology and flexibility they need to be successful in an increasingly competitive world”/Betsy Russell's full post here. (AP file photo)
- House passes off-track betting bill
- Hearing on extending renewable energy credit to continue
- Insurance budget bill draws debate in Senate
- Idaho Power: Renewable energy more costly, don't extend rebate
- Eskridge: Idaho changed rules on renewable energy, extend rebate
- Students decry funding inequities, oppose guns-on-campus
Question: Why did Butch Otter sign Tom Luna's education “reform” into law without fanfare?
Is it not incumbent upon supporters — and especially Otter, the fellow with the biggest bully pulpit in the Statehouse — to articulate their case? This is the same governor who, after state superintendent Tom Luna reported his car was vandalized, waxed eloquent about “the Idaho way” of engaging in vigorous disagreement on the issues. I guess the new “Idaho way” is to dismiss the opposition as misinformed rabble. So much for celebrating the common wisdom of the electorate/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here.
Question: What do you make of Gov. Butch Otter's statements, actions, and lack thereof during the education debate in the Idaho Legislature?
Public employee unions have virtually held elected officials “hostage” for too long, Gov. Butch Otter says, voicing his support for fellow GOP Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Otter has weighed in on the issue at a Republican Governors Association-sponsored website. Walker is pushing a bill to limit collective-bargaining rights of many public employees — a bill that has drawn the ire of unions, and has caused Democratic lawmakers to leave the state in an attempt to delay a vote and force negotiations/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here.
Question: Do you support Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin or the public unions opposing him?
Thousands of Idahoans participated in a telephone town hall led by Gov. Butch Otter and other advocates of school reform. Monday night’s forum was paid for by the state’s largest business lobby, the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry. Otter was joined by the author of the “Students Come First” plan, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and the two chairmen of the Legislature’s education committees, Sen. John Goedde and Rep. Bob Nonini, both Republicans from Coeur d’Alene. Otter invited recipients of the call to join the one-hour forum in a recorded message, and they could choose whether to participate in the live call. Participants were asked two questions, according to IACI President Alex LaBeau, basically: “Do you support education reform?” and “Do you support raising taxes or not?” The reform question did not specifically mention the Luna-Otter “Students Come First” plan/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here. (AP Photo/Idaho Press-Tribune, Charlie Litchfield)
Question: What do you make of Idaho's largest business group bankrolling a telephone town hall, featuring Gov. Butch Otter, Superintendent Tom Luna, and the 2 education chairman pushing ed 'reform'?
Whether you have been at the head of the classroom or in a desk on the other end, you know the importance of quality teaching. It makes all the difference. With the help of a great teacher, a struggling student can excel. Under an ineffective teacher, that student may never catch up. We know this from our own school experiences, as well as extensive research. The teacher is and always will be the most important factor in student success. If we truly want to put students first, we have to make sure we invest in Idaho’s teachers. That’s exactly what the Students Come First plan does. As a former teacher, I am excited about the possibilities this plan provides for great teachers now and in the future. Some have claimed this plan “devalues teachers.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s the only option that actually invests in teachers/Lori Otter, Office of the First Lady. More here. (AP file photo of Gov. Otter and Miss Lori)
Question: Why do you think proponents are rolling out the heavy hitters like First Lady Lori Otter to defend Tom Luna's radical education “reform” plans? After all, they're winning the legislative battle.
A recent agreement with the federal government could put Idaho at the forefront of a “resurgence” in nuclear reactor research, Gov. Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said today. In a joint guest opinion, Otter and Wasden defend a decision that allows the Department of Energy to ship limited quantities of used nuclear reactor fuel to Idaho for research. They say the deal, announced Jan. 6, does not compromise a 1995 nuclear waste cleanup agreement forged by former Gov. Phil Batt/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here.
Question: Does this send a message that Idaho has changed its mind re: being a repository for nuclear waste?
The economic downturn has left deep scars on Idaho's public services for the mentally ill, including efforts to help some of the state's most-vulnerable children. Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter's recommended budget for the Department of Health and Welfare's mental health services division for fiscal year 2012 is $32.4 million, down 4.6 percent from 2011 and a full 19 percent less than in 2008. The division has laid off or left unfilled 35 full time positions to assist adults with mental health problems, and another 14 positions to help kids/Associated Press via Betsy Russell/Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: Is this a good time to be cutting mental health services?
“He has my total confidence and my appreciation,” Gov. Butch Otter said of Sen. Bob Geddes, his choice to be the next chairman of the state Tax Commission. “Bob has great respect in the Legislature, I think he has great respect all over Idaho. I have found that wherever I go, and a high level of confidence that not only comes from both sides of the rotunda but both sides of the aisle”/Betsy Russell, Eye on Boise. More here.
Question: What does Geddes have to do to restore your confidence in the Idaho Tax Commission?
Gov. Butch Otter is about to hold a press conference, the press is assembled, and his staff has just passed out the written announcement: He'll be naming Sen. Bob Geddes, R-Soda Springs, to be the next chairman of the Idaho State Tax Commission.
Almost 300 state employees now earn more than the governor does, according to the latest “Rainbow Report” from the state controller’s office. That’s a three-fold increase just in the last decade, largely due to higher salaries for university administrators, deans and coaches. The annual report provides a snapshot of state employment at the beginning of each year. It details how many people work for the various state agency; lists salaries for the governor, lawmakers, department heads and other state officials; and identifies those who earn more than Idaho’s chief executive. Gov. Otter and the other constitutional officers actually took a pay cut this year, due to ongoing revenue shortfalls. The governor’s salary dropped 4 percent, from $115,348 last year to $110,734 this year/Bill Spence, Political Theater, Lewiston Tribune. More here.
Question: Should a state worker earn more than the Idaho governor?
Idaho’s state government workforce is at levels close to the year 2000, except for some anomalies at public universities. A headcount of Idaho state employees by the state controller this month shows the state has 23,986 employees, down from a high of 25,557 three years ago. “We have cut government considerably,” said Gov. Butch Otter’s spokesman Jon Hanian. The governor has called for reductions in state operations in his recent speeches and during his re-election campaign. “It shows the governor is not only talking the talk but walking the walk”/Brad Iverson-Long, Idaho Reporter. More here.
Question: Is there still room for more cuts in Idaho government?
The House and Senate minority caucuses held a press conference this morning to give their response to the governor's State of the State message and budget. “In the face of enormous challenges and widespread economic hardship, the governor and many legislators have no plans to do anything significant,” declared Senate Minority Leader Edgar Malepeai, D-Pocatello. “In fact, rather than being proactive, they've simply strengthened their resolve to dismantle the very public structures that help create prosperity”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
- Budget would mean no new Opportunity Scholarships for 3rd year
- Governor concerned about lagging state salaries, can't afford to address
- House Ethics Committee to hold closed door session for Spencer, Griffiths complaints
Question: Is Minority Leader Edgar Malepeai's criticism on Gov. Butch Otter's budget correct — that Otter's simply trying to 'dismantle public structures that help create prosperity'?
Three years after lawmakers rejected their $21 million pay-for-performance plan for K-12 teachers, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna (pictured) and Gov. Butch Otter are upping the ante. Re-election behind them, the two have quietly designed reforms to school finance, teacher tenure, digital learning and measurement of student performance that Luna said aim at setting national and world standards. And they appear ready to carry them out without any additional money for public schools. Republican leaders in the Legislature were briefed last week but sworn to secrecy until Wednesday at 8:30 a.m., when Luna will present the plan to Senate and House education committees. “Watch and listen,” said House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here.
Question: Does the Idaho education system need an overhaul?
Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, wants to reduce personal and business income taxes in Idaho, lure businesses to the state, and ultimately increase overall tax revenues for Idaho and he is getting support for his plan in a big way. Gov. Butch Otter backed the proposal in his State of the State address in at the Capitol in Boise Monday, mentioning Hagedorn by name. Hagedorn’s bill is a 10-year plan that would lower personal and corporate income taxes in the state to a flat 4.9 percent, making it one of the lowest rates in the United States/Dustin Hurst, Idaho Reporter. More here.
Question: Would you like to see a flat rate of 4.9 percent be used to determine Idaho income taxes?
The governor said his proposed budget for fiscal year 2012 is “based on a modest but responsible 3 percent growth rate in our state revenue.” That's despite the fact that his own Division of Financial Management economists are forecasting 6.9 percent more in tax revenue will come into state coffers in fiscal 2012. Otter is proposing to budget to just the 3 percent figure - leaving $91 million on the table if the state's forecasts prove true. Lawmakers have been pessimistic about forecasts since revenues fell short in the past few years/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here. And: text of speech here.
- The governor's budget
- A flat school budget
- Otter backs teacher 'pay-for-performance'
- Otter wants business incentives
- Guv addresses Tax Commission trouble
- Guv: State more efficient now
- Folo: Betsy Russell's live-blogging of State of the State speech
Question: Do you have high hopes for 2011 Legislature?
Idaho Tax Commission Chairman Royce Chigbrow resigned Friday after employees at the agency said he intervened in tax cases involving clients of his son's accounting firm as well as for a friend and political supporter, the AP reports. Click below for the full article from AP reporter John Miller.
Gov. Butch Otter just announced that he's accepted the resignation of Royce Chigbrow as chairman of the Idaho State Tax Commission. Here's Otter's statement:
“Royce has been my friend and trusted adviser for a number of years. He was kind enough to enter the arena of public service at my request, and I applaud his hard work, knowledge and expertise in that role. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”
In his second inaugaral address, Gov. Butch Otter said today: “Over the next four years you can expect my administration to keep building partnerships for addressing some of our most pressing challenges, to keep clearing the way for entrepreneurs to create more career opportunities and to keep protecting our Idaho way of life,” the governor said. “You will see that what started as emergency measures taken in response to the great rec'ession's impact on Idaho become standard operating practices of our state government, permament changes in how we have done business, aimed at leaving a smaller, better defined and more constructive imprint on our people's lives”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here (including photo).
Question: What would you most like to see Butch Otter do in his second term?
Here's a link to my full story at spokesman.com on Gov. Butch Otter's second inauguration today, which came amid hoopla, booming cannons and an A-10 jet flyover on the state Capitol steps. Otter pledged to turn the emergency measures the state has taken to cope with a huge economic downturn into “standard operating practices” for his administration, as he started his second four-year term leading the state. You can read the full text of the governor's speech here.
The stage is set, the 25th Army Band is playing, and a giant American flag has been strung up on the front of the state capitol for today's inaugural festivities. At noon Boise time, Idaho's 46th inauguration will begin. Gov. Butch Otter and all other state constitutional officers will take the oath of office, administered by Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Daniel Eismann, and Otter will give his second inaugural address.
Powder Farmer: I'm so friggin' tired of the rhetoric on both sides of the wolf issue, the hyberbole, ridiculous claims(250 lb non-native killing machine), never ending lawsuits, fundraising to sustain $200K executive positions (see DOW and EJ Form 990s, non-profit my arse). Otter's action wasn't clever, defiant maybe, but not clever. He essentially put all of his eggs in the federal delisting of wolves through Congress. And I thought Otter didn't want the feds in Idaho. He turned management back over to the Feds. Real 10th Amendment stuff right there.
Question: Do you still follow the seemingly never-ending wolf debate?
Shoshone Conservative: I've always wondered what happened to Otter in the last few years - as Congressman, he (along with Larry Craig, too, actually) was couragous in speaking out against the abuses of the Patriot Act (being the only Republican besides Ron Paul to vote against it), and did a fairly good job of trying to resist federal encroachment on State powers. He was on the Right Wing of the Republican Party, leaning toward libertarian, but he wasn't radical or a wingnut, either. Now, he reminds me of the Governor on the old TV show Benson. He's even gotten a FEDERAL Judge to swear him in as Governor both times, for Heaven's sake. He's gone from “maverick” (to use a tired cliche) to very much “establishment.”
Question: Has Butch Otter changed from his days as a maverick Idaho congressman?
Idaho Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter is sworn in by U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge during a private ceremony for his second term at the Statehouse in Boise today. Eye On Boise coverage here, and: Idaho Statesman story here. (AP Photo/The Idaho Statesman, Joe Jaszewski)
- Air stagnation triggers Spokane burning ban/Mike Prager, SR
- Spokesman: AG Wasden can't intervene in Tax Commission case/Kevin Richert, Statesman
- McEuen Park proposal to be presented to public Thursday/Victoria Bruno, CdA Today
- 2-fer: KEA in 2010, and: Top 10 for 2010/KEA Blog
- Spokane Valley Erotique Botique robbed today/SR
Question: What do you expect from Gov. Butch Otter in his second term that will be different from his first four years in office?
Keith Allred, left, talks with 1st District Rep. Walt Minnick during a picnic for Canyon County Democrats July 10 in Nampa, Idaho.
BOISE – Before Keith Allred ran for governor of Idaho, the former Harvard University professor was becoming an increasingly common sight in Idaho’s state Capitol, where he spent five years lobbying for what he called “the common interest” on behalf of his nonpartisan citizens group.
Allred brought together people of all political stripes from throughout the state into a group that collectively studied and debated issues, and where they reached broad consensus, he lobbied for those positions in the state Legislature, with some notable successes.
Now, after running on the Democratic ticket and losing to Republican Gov. Butch Otter, Allred says he plans to focus on business consulting work for the next two to three years, but he says the idea of the common interest isn’t over – and he still hopes to expand it nationwide. More here. Betsy Russell
The state Land Board has convened in the Idaho Capitol Auditorium this morning, with agenda items including addressing the issue of the “split estate” - the situation in which the state owns lakefront cabin sites, but private owners own the cabins they build and use on them. So far, state Endowment Fund manager Larry Johnson has given an update on endowment fund earnings. “November was a month in which the fund essentially broke even,” Johnson told the board, though December so far is up 3 percent. Through November, earnings for the fiscal year on endowment investment funds were at 13.5 percent, but now, as of yesterday, they’re at roughly 17 percent, Johnson said.
Johnson now is addressing a series of questions about distribution policy and investment management submitted by state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna. Among them: How to ensure that once an endowment fund fills its reserves, that the interests of current and future beneficiaries are equally weighted. Johnson said the endowment board has made a change in its distribution calculation to ensure that happens. However, Johnson said the public school fund is currently tipping the balance a bit to current beneficiaries over future ones. As income in the fund recovers, distributions may need to be increased more slowly to address that, he said; if income doesn’t grow, “a reduction in the distribution rate may be necessary.” That’s not likely what Luna wanted to hear.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is en route back from a two-hour meeting this morning in Denver with the governors of Montana and Wyoming and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, which Otter attended at Salazar’s invitation. Otter in October pulled his state out of participating in wolf management, turning all duties over to federal authorities and saying Idaho wouldn’t participate if it couldn’t hold a wolf hunt. “Nobody’s talking about eliminating these animals - our position has been biological stability,” said Otter’s spokesman, Jon Hanian. “We feel we’ve more than reached that, and the problem is that it’s being legislated in the courts. I think that’s why we’ve reached the impasse we currently find ourselves in.”
Idaho and Montana conducted successful state-regulated wolf hunts in the past year while their wolves were off the endangered species list, but a federal judge’s ruling halted plans for another wolf hunt in the two states this fall. Hanian said Otter made it clear when he ended Idaho’s role in wolf management that “we’re open to any discussion that would further Idaho’s efforts to have a hunting season, because we think that’s an integral part of successful management.”
To hear Idaho Gov. C. L. (Butch) Otter tell it, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should stop short of cleaning up a century’s worth of mining contamination in the Silver Valley. Apparently, the Superfund label and the cleanup efforts are hurting the valley’s image. “I have heard from legislators, local officials and the people of the Silver Valley, and I share their frustration and concern about the EPA’s overreaching and hugely expansive proposal for future cleanup efforts in the valley,” Otter wrote. The state’s four-member congressional delegation has since joined the chorus. But imagine if Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal followed that approach with the recent BP oil spill. Don’t bother extensively restoring the Gulf Coast. All that publicity is bad for the fishing and tourism industries. Just declare the oil all gone/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.
- Eman: “They are wrong to resist in my opinion. The foxes have been watching the hen house long enough and that’s what created this mess in the first place.”
Question: Are Butch Otter & Idaho’s congressional delegation right in resisting efforts by EPA to further clean up the Silver Valley’s mining waste?
Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) — Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has sent a letter criticizing the federal government’s proposal for the next phase of cleanup in Idaho’s Silver Valley region. Otter sent a letter Monday to the Environmental Protection Agency saying he cannot support the plan unless it ensures cleanup work will not impede existing or future mining in the region. In the letter, reported by the Coeur d’Alene Press, Otter also says the cleanup cannot last forever and urged the EPA to set reasonable and achievable goals. The EPA is taking public comments on its proposal to expand the cleanup of historic mining wastes in the upper Coeur d’Alene River basin. The EPA Director of Environmental Cleanup Dan Opalski says they will consider Otter’s comments and others submitted in the process.
More Info: In a letter on Monday, Gov. Butch Otter criticized the EPA’s proposed Record of Decision amendment for the Upper Basin, and said a successful cleanup in the Silver Valley “is impossible without a healthy community and a strong local economy.” “In my view, the proposed ROD amendment must not go forward unless the EPA commits that cleanup work will not impede existing or future mining,” Otter wrote. “Moreover, the proposed ROD is not acceptable unless the EPA identifies and commits to reasonable and achievable endpoints.”
Question: Otter goes on to say that the EPA must “live within people’s means.” Should the EPA hold off far-reaching plans during these hard economic times?
In a new opinion piece today, Gov. Butch Otter says he’s “read all the postmortems and punditry about the ‘meaning’ of the November 2nd election results,” and declares, “I believe most of it is well-intentioned, although there certainly is a fair amount of cynicism, condescension and sour grapes involved. And yes, there has been a little chest thumping too. None of it is warranted.”
Otter says, “The truth is that each of us from our own perspective – regardless of our political affiliation – are doing our level best to make Idaho a better place for our children and grandchildren than it is today. We agree on more than we disagree, and we mutually embrace more values than divide us.” Click below to read his full op-ed article.