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Sho-Con: Otter Is Semi-Retired

Columnist Chris Carlson: “Finally, there is no polite way to say this, Governor Otter knows and those close to him know he is engaging in what’s called “mailing it in.” He is not showing up for work very often, his schedule of public appointments has decreased dramatically, he spends only minimal time when he does make public appearances with the exception of the occasional capitol for a day.” More here.

Shoshone Conservative: Bingo. That’s what I’ve been saying for a long time. Otter is treating his office like a cushy “pre-retirement” post, given to him as a “reward” so he can finish out his political service “at the top.” Kind of like a long-time corporate executive being promoted to high-level position before retirement, where he has little to no actual work to do, other than to show up to a board meeting ever quarter, or pop in after his golf game to sign a couple of papers. This state is run by unelected bureaucrats, not an elected Governor.

Question: Do you think Gov. Butch Otter is “mailing it in” — semi-retired and no longer interested in running the state of Idaho?

Carlson: Otter Spreads Horse Manure

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s self-congratulatory Thanksgiving Day column (The New Normal) claiming a number of highly debatable “successes” for Idaho on his watch reminds one of a story his idol, former President Ronald Reagan, liked to tell. It’s the story about the guy digging madly through a huge pile of horse manure convinced that there has to be a pony in there someplace because there’s so much horse s___. With all due respect to the office he holds, Butch is just plain wrong in almost all he claims. It’s hard to believe he can look at his mismanagement of so much and claim success. This goes beyond rose-colored glasses, beyond the normal PR spin one has come to expect of so many of today’s officeholders. This is pure, unadulterated horse manure which anyone with an understanding of factual information can smell from far away/Chris Carlson, The Carlson Chronicles. More here.

  • Chris Carlson, author of “Cecil Andrus: Idaho's Greatest Governor,” will tell the noon Friday luncheon of the Kootenai County Democratic Club why he thinks Andrus was a great leader.

Question: Do you agree with Chris Carlson that Gov. Butch Otter is looking through rose-colored glasses when he touts successes of his administration?

Otter op-ed: ‘Idaho sets example of responsible governance’

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has sent out a guest opinion entitled, “Leaner, more focused government must be our new normal,” that already has appeared in the Capitol Hill newspaper “Roll Call,” in which he says Idaho sets “an example of responsible governance for the rest of America.” Otter says the state did that by not raising taxes and balancing its budget. “It wasn't easy, and it wasn't always popular,” he writes. Click below for his full opinion piece.

Otter: Idaho Shows How To Govern

How can a largely rural Western state of roughly 1.5 million people — a state whose Republican credentials are matched only by its almost contrarian sense of independence — possibly set an example of responsible governance for the rest of America? In Idaho, we did it by reassessing the proper role of government in people’s lives. We did it by identifying what our constitution and laws require government to do and eliminating much of what they don’t. We did it by instituting zero-based budgeting and bringing business principles to government. We did it by making tough choices and difficult adjustments early in the economic downturn. And we did it by being cautious, prudent, and yes, conservative with taxpayer dollars in order to live within the people’s means/Gov. Butch Otter, Roll Call. More here.

Question: Do you think Idaho has set an example for governance for the other 49 states?

Otter appoints Gayle Batt to complete Rep. Takasugi’s term in House

Gov. Butch Otter has appointed Gayle Batt of Wilder to complete the Idaho House term of state Rep. Pat Takasugi, who died after a three-year battle against cancer of the appendix. Batt was Takasugi's choice to fill in for him in the last legislative session, when his health prevented him from attending the session.

“I have known Gayle for years, and I know her to be a keen student of public policy and the legislative process,” Otter said in a statement. “She knows her county, her district and her state exceedingly well, and I have great confidence that she will continue to be an exemplary member of the Idaho Legislature.”

Batt was Takasugi's campaign manager in both 2008 and 2010, and is a former president of  the Food Producers of Idaho and the Canyon County Republican Women. Click below for the governor's full announcement.

Batt Appointed For Takasugi’s Spot

Gov. Butch Otter announced Friday that he chose Gayle Batt of Wilder to fill the House seat vacated by the passing of former Rep. Pat Takasugi, also a Republican from Wilder. Takasugi passed away Nov. 6 after a prolonged battle with cancer. His term ends in December 2012. Batt will be no stranger to the job when the Legislature meets for business beginning in January. She filled in for Takasugi  for the duration of the 2011 legislative session while he battled appendix cancer. She was instrumental in the passage of a reform to Idaho’s open records law/Idaho Reporter. More here.

Otter In Hawaii As Execution Nears

As last-minute pleas for clemency continued to pour into Idaho’s state Capitol this week in advance of the state’s first execution since 1994, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter wasn’t there – he was at a posh resort in Maui to speak about presidential politics, leaving Lt. Gov. Brad Little in charge. Little was Idaho’s acting governor from Sunday, when Otter left for Hawaii, until today, when Otter is planning to return to Boise, leaving the California Independent Voter Project’s “Business and Leader Exchange” a day early to make it back for the Friday execution/Betsy Russell, SR. More here.

Question: Are you bothered that Gov. Otter was in Hawaii earlier this week while pleas for clemency for triple-murderer Paul Ezra Rhoades poured into the state — and attorneys tried to save the condemned man?

As execution approaches, Otter’s in Maui, LIttle’s in charge

As last-minute pleas for clemency continued to pour into Idaho's state Capitol this week in advance of the state's first execution since 1994, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter wasn't there – he was at a posh resort in Maui to speak about presidential politics, leaving Lt. Gov. Brad Little in charge.
Little has been Idaho's acting governor from Sunday, when Otter left for Hawaii, until Thursday, when Otter is planning to return to Boise, leaving the California Independent Voter Project's “Business and Leader Exchange” a day early to make it back for the Friday execution. During that time, condemned killer Paul Ezra Rhoades had two bids for a stay of execution rejected by the U.S. District Court in Boise and filed an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals; state attorneys filed their response to that appeal today.

Where was Otter, who could commute the sentence? As the guest of the California group, he and First Lady Lori Otter flew to Hawaii for the group's conference at the Fairmont Kea Lani Resort, a beachfront spread with three swimming pools, a 140-foot water slide and an array of luxury amenities.

Little, who says he's “really uncomfortable with capital punishment, just because of the very nature of it,” but has come to support it after much “soul searching,” says as acting governor, he wouldn't reverse Otter's stand, which has been to deny clemency for Rhoades. Little said he hasn't even read the letters and emails that continued to come in to the Capitol regarding the execution this week, leaving them instead for Otter on his return. “I guess I could go ask for 'em if I wanted to, but I have chosen not to do that,” Little said. He said he agrees with Otter's stance in this case. “I don't think anybody's arguing that Paul Ezra Rhoades is anywhere close to innocent.”  You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Otter Doubtful Re: Medical Marijuana

In an interview with Idaho Conservative Blogger, Gov. Butch Otter says he's consulted with governors in states permitting marijuana use, but doubts the Legislature will ever send him a bill. If they did, he hinted he would veto the measure, calling pot a “gateway drug.” Among Otter's major initiatives have been the Idaho Meth Project, a favorite cause of his wife, Lori. As a young lawmaker in the 1970s, Otter supported decriminalization, but his views have shifted. Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, has pushed for years to legalize industrial hemp, but gotten no traction in the Legislature/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here. (AP file photo of California protest, for illustrative purposes)

Question: Are you optimistic that Idaho will legalize medical marijuana sometime this decade?

Otter standing by decision not to spare killer’s life

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, a Catholic who once studied for the priesthood, is the only one who could spare the life of condemned Idaho inmate Paul Ezra Rhoades, a multiple murderer scheduled for execution next Friday. Otter, a supporter of the death penalty, has stuck by his position, even in the face of pleas for mercy from the pope, from the Swiss ambassador, and from the bishop of the Catholic diocese of Idaho.

“It's tough, it's tough,” Otter said, when asked about balancing his faith and his position. He's been reluctant to discuss the matter as Idaho approaches its first execution since 1994, when condemned murderer Keith Eugene Wells dropped his appeals and requested to be put to death. This case is different: Rhoades has tried every appeal, exhausted every remedy, and still is attempting in federal court to challenge Idaho's lethal-injection execution method as unconstitutionally cruel; a federal judge will decide Monday if that challenge should delay the scheduled execution. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Costumed up for trick-or-treat…

First Lady Lori Otter and Gov. Butch Otter dressed up as a referee and a Boise State football player for their second annual trick-or-treat event on the Capitol steps today, at which they handed out candy and toothbrushes to costumed kids.

Guv, first lady invite kids to trick-or-treat at the Capitol steps this afternoon

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and First Lady Lori Otter are inviting kids and their families to come trick-or-treating on the front steps of the state Capitol today, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. It's the second annual event, at which the Otters will hand out candy donated by Walmart and toothbrushes from the Idaho Dental Association (as long as supplies last), along with the first lady's children's book, “Ida Visits the Capitol.” Last year, both the governor and first lady were in costume for the event, she as Snow White and he as a cowboy; their costumes this year reportedly will have a sports theme.

Edit: Idaho Too Cozy With Lobbyists

A skilled, smooth political operative, Jason Kreizenbeck (pictured in AP file photo) moved seamlessly from lobbying for Micron Technology into public service. And now, he is allowed to seamlessly move back from the public to the private sector — as if the two are one and the same. Because, in Idaho, they are treated as if they are one and the same. Kreizenbeck, Gov. Butch Otter’s chief of staff for nearly four years, is stepping down. He will take a job with Skip Smyser, a Statehouse lobbyist whose cadre of clients includes AT&T, the private prison firm Corrections Corp. of America, and Idaho Medicaid contractor Molina Healthcare. “I don’t even know if I’m going to be lobbying,” Kreizenbeck told the Statesman’s Dan Popkey this week. Kreizenbeck need not be coy. Under the state’s lax and laissez faire ethics laws, there is nothing stopping him from turning in his resignation at Otter’s second-floor office at the Statehouse, walking down the hallway to Secretary of State Ben Ysursa’s office, and registering as a lobbyist/Idaho Statesman Editorial Board. More here.

Question: Why does Idaho continue to allow such a cozy relationship between those who govern and lobbyists?

Gov. Otter’s chief of staff leaves to take new lobbying gig

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter's chief of staff, Jason Kreizenbeck, is leaving his post at the end of this week to start a lobbying firm with prominent lobbyist and former state Sen. Skip Smyser, the Associated Press reports; Kreizenbeck will be replaced by David Hensley, currently Otter's staff legal counsel. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

GOP Bigwig Helped Now-Banned Firm

Jonathan Parker, now executive director of the Idaho Republican Party, arranged a meeting between consultant Arup Patranabish and Idaho’s top purchasing official shortly after GOP Gov. Butch Otter took office in 2007. At the time, Parker was president of Idaho Young Republicans and a lobbyist for the Idaho Water Users Association. He is now a possible candidate to succeed GOP Chairman Norm Semanko should Semanko be elected Eagle mayor in November. Patranabish’s Boise company, AnalyzeSoft, has been disqualified from doing business with the state for one year because it allegedly double-billed the Idaho Department of Correction, charging $2 million for an inmate tracking system that remains incomplete. The disqualification period began in July/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here. (Jonathan Parker's Facebook photo)


Otter at Women’s Day on selling Idaho to China: ‘We have not, we will not’

An array of female state government officials, including state Controller Donna Jones, state Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould, state Appellate Public Defender Molly Huskey, state Historical Society Director Janet Gallimore, and many more, are gathered in the Capitol Auditorium for today's second annual “Women's Day at the Capitol.” Gov. Butch Otter told the group, “Women have been intricately involved in the history of Idaho.”

The governor, First Lady Lori Otter and the officials are taking questions from the roughly 70 attendees; the first was from the owner of a very small business, inquiring what the state is doing to help the state's smallest businesses, like hers with just herself and one part-time employee. Otter said, “I would tell you in Idaho, small business is our economy.” Bibiana Nertney from the Idaho Department of Commerce discussed loans and other programs her department offers. The next question, submitted in writing and read by moderator Natalie Hurst, was, “Can you explain the Chinese situation - are you really selling part of the state?”

Otter said, “No - that's the answer. I don't know how that got so convoluted, but I guess it had to do with poor timing on our part. The first lady and I led a trade delegation to China.” He noted that Idaho's international sales have risen dramatically since 1987, when he first became lieutenant governor, and touted that growth. “Somehow the connection was made between a visit that was made to the state of Idaho by a Chinese group and my trip to China,” Otter said. “I have never ever talked to anyone or got into a discussion with anyone that wanted to buy 50,000 acres right next to Gowen Field, which we don't have, by the way, and open up a free trade zone, which we only have one in Idaho, and it's actually up on the Canadian border with Canada. … We have not, we will not.”

Governor, first lady hold second annual ‘Women’s Day at Capitol’ today

Gov. Butch Otter and First Lady Lori Otter are inviting people to their second annual “Women's Day at the Capitol” today, from 3-6 p.m. in the Capitol Auditorium. The governor called it “kind of an offshoot to Capitol for a Day, as we go around the state and visit other communities, we thought it would also be nice to have a day where we focus on the women in our Cabinet and in our administration, and be able to answer questions for ladies that would otherwise be curious of what we do here at the Capitol, what we do in state government and how much the women in our Cabinet add to the effectiveness of government.”

He added, “We had a great turnout last year, I don’t remember the exact number, but I think a lot of people were surprised that we had that many women in leadership positions in state government, and how very effective they were at answering questions and engaging in conversation with folks so that they would better understand what we do in government.”

NYT Columnist: Butch Otter For Prez

Columnist Gail Collins links the historic collapse of the Boston Red Sox with the withering of challengers to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the GOP presidential nomination, most recently Texas Gov. Rick Perry. In a column titled, “The Curse of the Mitt,” Gail Collins writes, “Maybe Mitt made a pact with the Baseball Gods and traded the pennant for his nomination.” Collins suggests that Romney's Faustian bargain could explain his remaining above the fray while opponents like Perry, Michele Bachman and Newt Gingrich self-destruct. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is the latest potential rival to Romney's front-runner status and is apparently revisiting his Shermanesque statement that he will not enter the race. Could Otter step in if Christie disintegrates? “The Republicans are running out of governors to put up against Romney. This week the cry has been for Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey to get into the race, although I am personally rooting for Gov. Butch Otter of Idaho because of his strong record of fiscal conservatism and the fact that I really enjoy writing 'Butch Otter' over and over and over”/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: Can you picture Butch Otter at the head of our nuclear arsenal?

Otter Will Take Obamacare Money

Gov. Butch Otter said Tuesday that he will allow the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and Idaho Department of Insurance to ask the federal government for $30.9 million of grant money to start a health insurance exchange for the state. The exchange will be a marketplace for people and groups to compare and buy health insurance. The style of marketplace has been likened to travel-shopping websites. The governor had banned all use of federal money to implement the 2010 health care reform law. But he left open the possibility of a waiver for programs that already were in place in Idaho or that weren’t directly related to health care. Unless Idaho sets up its own exchange, the state will default to the federal government’s exchange. The deadline for applying for the grant is Sept. 30/Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: What do you make of Gov. Butch Otter's about-face on Obamacare?

Trillhaase: Butch Knows Best

When professional economists analyze how well Idaho will do in the next 18 months, they consider a host of factors. Will interest rates spur investment? Will more people have jobs? How much will they get paid? What will Idaho's commodities and manufactured goods command on the open market? How will the timber and mining sectors perform? Will the nation as a whole prosper? And what do some of the country's leading analysts predict? That information is spun into a statistical formula, then massaged into a formal projection of how much tax revenue Idaho can expect to have on hand for its programs. It's not flawless. Coming within 1 or 2 percentage points is remarkable, but even that can produce shortfalls or surpluses. No matter. Gov. C. L. (Butch) Otter knows better. He relies on his instincts and his ideology/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.

More Idaho Opinion:

Question: Does Butch really know best about the Idaho economy & budget?

Otter Seeks Funds For Hoffman’s IFF?

The Spokesman-Review's Betsy Russell recounts a “database glitch” that landed a letter addressed to Secretary of State Ben Ysursa at her Boise home over the weekend, with Otter's contribution pitch for the advocacy group headed by lobbyist Wayne Hoffman, former spokesman for ex-GOP Rep. Bill Sali. Hoffman told Russell, “It's a very normal practice,” for a sitting governor to solicit funds for a private group and have contributors send money to him in care of the organization. Otter approved the letter, according to his spokesman. Hoffman founded the group after Sali's defeat in 2008, but has never disclosed the source of its funding. Otter is among many GOP elected officials who have supported the free-market think tank that operates an online news outlet/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: Should Gov. Butch Otter be involved in raising money for the Idaho Freedom Foundation?

IFF Using Otter As Fund-raising Ploy?

Of all the odd things to find in my mailbox over the weekend, there was a letter from Gov. Butch Otter, addressed to Ben Ysursa, who happens to be Idaho's secretary of state, but at my address. Since it's a federal crime to open someone else's mail, I took the letter to Ysursa's office so he could open it, and he said he got one at his home as well. It was a membership pitch from the Idaho Freedom Foundation, asking people to send from $50 to $5,000 to become “charter members” of the group - and to send the money to Gov. Butch Otter, care of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. Ysursa said, “As you get into it, it's pretty clear it's not the state of Idaho that's doing this, it's the Freedom Foundation/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: What the heck?

Fundraising letter says send donations to Gov. Otter - at Idaho Freedom Foundation

Of all the odd things to find in my mailbox over the weekend, there was a letter from Gov. Butch Otter, addressed to Ben Ysursa, who happens to be Idaho's secretary of state, but at my address. Since it's a federal crime to open someone else's mail, I took the letter to Ysursa's office so he could open it, and he said he got one at his home as well. It was a membership pitch from the Idaho Freedom Foundation, asking people to send from $50 to $5,000 to become “charter members” of the group - and to send the money to Gov. Butch Otter, care of the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

Ysursa said, “As you get into it, it's pretty clear it's not the state of Idaho that's doing this, it's the Freedom Foundation. I saw it and opened it up, and was able to discern that it was a membership drive letter for the Freedom Foundation.” Ysursa, who's in charge of enforcing campaign disclosure and lobbying reporting laws, said, “Over the years, Gov. Otter and other elected officials at times get asked to sign letters of endorsement for various interests. I don't see where it violates anything - it's just kind of a judgment call by the elected official.”

The foundation is listed on the back of the envelope with its P.O. box return address, but on the front of the envelope, the only return address, below Otter's signature, is, “C.L. 'Butch' Otter, Governor.” It also states, on the front of the envelope, “IMPORTANT OBAMACARE LAWSUIT UPDATE.” In the letter, Otter writes, “Last year we worked together to pass the Idaho Health Freedom Act, and I look forward to working with the Idaho Freedom Foundation in the future to ensure that we continue protecting liberty and the free market.” He adds, “I hope you will join the Idaho Freedom Foundation as a Charter Member and let your voice be heard.”

Wayne Hoffman, head of the Freedom Foundation, said the use of the governor's name - including on the donation form (“To: GOVERNOR BUTCH OTTER, Idaho Freedom Foundation, PO Box 2801”) and as the addressee, care of the Freedom Foundation, for donations people may send, is a “standard thing.” The Freedom Foundation did the same thing last year when it sent out a fundraising letter endorsed by former Idaho Sen. Steve Symms, Hoffman said. The foundation, which doesn't disclose its donors, is “probably up to 500 donors” at this point, Hoffman said. With the new mailing, which went to tens of thousands of people statewide, “I expect we'll generate thousands of new members.”

The donations won't actually go to Otter; they'll go to the Freedom Foundation. Hoffman said he doesn't consider the labeling misleading. “It's a very normal practice,” he said. “People understand that Butch is supporting our efforts and he's put his name behind a good organization that is supporting the principles that he's fought long and hard for.” Otter has no affiliation with the foundation, Hoffman said, other than that he donated a belt buckle at the group's annual banquet in May and he and Tom Luna received an award from the group for the “Students Come First” school reform initiative.

Jon Hanian, Otter's press secretary, said, “I can confirm that the governor did approve that letter.” The group asked because they share Otter's concern “over the issue of the health care mandate,” he said. “We read and approved the letter that went out. That was the extent of our involvement in it.”

As to how the letter made its way to my mailbox, Hoffman cited a database glitch.

Otter says he’ll keep low-balling state budgets

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is promising more of the same from his administration: tight budgeting that may underestimate state revenues, forcing budget cuts that later prove unnecessary, to avoid mid-year holdbacks. That approach attracted criticism this year after Otter and state lawmakers discounted economic forecasts and set the state budget tens of millions of dollars lower than estimated revenues, then ended the fiscal year June 30 with a fat surplus, most of which was doled back out to make up budget cuts to schools.

“You can expect the same thing the remainder of my time in office,” Otter declared last week in a talk at a luncheon sponsored by the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce and attended by more than 400 people. “The future budgets that we’ll have in the state are going to not look an awful lot unlike budgets that we’ve had the last three and a half years,” Otter said. “We’re still going to be conservative. We’re still going to work at institutionalizing a lot of the changes that we made during this economic downturn.” You can read my full Sunday column here.

Idaho ‘at crossroads’ on health insurance exchange

You can read my full story here at spokesman.com on Gov. Butch Otter's pitch to state lawmakers today for the state to apply for a $40 million federal grant to set up its own health insurance exchange - to avoid the feds stepping in and doing it for the state - and the supportive response from lawmakers, including some who are leery of any participation in national health care reforms. The state has to apply for the grant by Sept. 30; it could decide later to return some or all of the money with no penalty, Otter said.

Otter to lawmakers: Time to decide whether take fed $, or let feds design Idaho insurance exchange

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter told the Legislature's Health Care Task Force this morning that Idaho has been working on the idea of a health insurance exchange since 2007, and “That idea I believe was co-opted by Obamacare.” In fact, he said, “We find that many of the things we were doing in Medicare, many of the things we were doing in health care services for children adults, from Medicaid services to dentistry, have been co-opted by the Affordable Health Care Act.” That's why, he said, he's issued waivers for 10 of the 13 requests he's received from the state Department of Insurance and the state Department of Health & Welfare under his executive order that forbids accepting any federal health-care reform money without his personal approval for a waiver.

Otter said Idaho is “at a crossroads,” at which it must decide - by Sept. 30 - whether or not to apply for a $40 million federal grant to build a new Idaho state insurance exchange. “If we do not apply for the grant, then under the Affordable Health Care Act, the federal government will come in and establish and impose upon us … an insurance exchange.” It would make use of national insurance firms, he said - not Idaho companies.  “The date of Sept. 30 is coming at us at a rapid rate,” Otter told House and Senate members who serve on the joint task force. “What's the state going to look like in terms of our health care exchange? … Should we decide not to go for the $40 million grant, and let the federal government then assume responsibility for the health care exchange within the state of Idaho?”

House Health & Welfare Chairwoman Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls, asked if Idaho couldn't set up its own exchange without taking the federal money. Otter said that's possible, but there'd be a cost. He also noted that Idaho could apply for and receive the grant, and then - as Kansas and Oklahoma already have done - decide to return part of it rather than comply with regulations attached to the money, without having to pay back any portion already spent. “We can stop - return the money and we're not required to return any of the money that we've already spent,” Otter said.

Spirit Lake to be this month’s ‘Capital for a Day’

Spirit Lake, Idaho, population 1,945, will be the state's “Capital for a Day” on Aug. 31, Gov. Butch Otter announced today. It's part of Otter's series of meetings in different Idaho towns, to which he brings a slew of senior state officials and members of his cabinet for an all-day gathering open to local citizens. This month's “Capital for a Day” will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Spirit Lake Community Senior Center, 32564 N. 4th Avenue, including a no-host lunch at noon at the city park with Otter, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, and Spirit Lake Mayor Todd Clary. Among those attending will be the heads of Idaho's departments of Fish & Game, Health & Welfare, and Lands, along with others; click below for Otter's full announcement.

Land Board: Luna’s lone dissenting vote

The Idaho State Land Board meets Tuesday; state schools Supt. Tom Luna, right, cast the lone vote against keeping endowment distributions to public schools even next year.

Idaho's state Land Board voted 4-1 this morning to distribute $47.5 million to state endowment beneficiaries including public schools next year, up 2.3 percent overall from this year's distribution of $46.425 million, but with no increase for schools, which would get $31.29 million, identical to this year's level.

State schools Supt. Tom Luna cast the lone dissenting vote, prompting a questioning look from Gov. Butch Otter, who's chairing the meeting, as he hadn't spoken against the motion from Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to approve the endowment board's recommendation. “I chose not to rehash my concerns I've expressed before at this time,” Luna said, “seeing it wasn't going to change any votes.” Otter responded, “You're probably right.” Betsy Russell, EOB More here.



Otter on Fox News: Idaho budget a ‘model for what the nation ought to do’

Gov. Butch Otter took to the national airwaves last night, in a phone interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren, touting Idaho's budget management as a “model for what the nation ought to do.” Otter noted Idaho's recently upgraded credit rating of AA+, the same level to which the national debt was just downgraded by Standard and Poor's, from AAA. “Idaho, obviously, with our upgrade, we went to AA+ while the nation was coming down, because we balanced our budget, we saved money when we had a surplus, and we didn't spend more money than we had during the economic crisis,” Otter said.

He also called for cuts in entitlement programs, touting Idaho's Medicaid cuts as a success story and recalling the “soul-crushing tyranny of entitlement” line he used in his last State of the State message. “There wasn't anybody thrown out in the streets,” Otter told Van Susteren. “People became more responsible for their own needs. And when they had to share the cost when there was co-pay for some of the entitlements they were getting, then they were more judicious in how they spent that money. The second thing that happened was churches and the rest of the community said we can help a little, but you have to help yourself.” Click below for a transcript of the interview provided by the program, “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.”

Idaho cut $34 million from its Medicaid program this year, including new co-payment requirements, big new assessments on hospitals and other care providers, and trims in provider reimbursements. There were also cuts to services: More than 42,000 poor or disabled Idahoans lost their non-emergency dental coverage on July 1; dozens of patients are being discharged from nursing homes to home-based care; treatments like chiropractic care, podiatry, vision coverage and hearing aids were cut; and the state is revising programs to move to more of a managed-care approach. A federal lawsuit has halted one move, to a single residential habilitation agency for developmentally disabled patients in certified family homes, that would have driven dozens of existing agencies out of business and drastically reduced oversight of the treatment of those patients.

Guv takes on feds over Lake Lowell recreation

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, on behalf of the State of Idaho, has submitted comments to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service with the state's “strong opposition” to the proposed new management plan for the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, which would restrict some longtime recreational uses, from powerboating to kitesailing. “Although it is now a wildlife refuge, wildlife and recreation have co-existed with irrigation throughout the life of the Deer Flat project,” Otter wrote. “In fact, irrigation was the original purpose of Lake Lowell. As a Bureau of Reclamation project, preservation of wildlife habitat is secondary to the water rights owned by irrigators.”

There's more. Otter asserts that state law supersedes wildlife habitat at the refuge, though the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says the purpose of a national wildlife refuge is “to serve as a refuge and breeding grounds for migratory birds and other wildlife.” As is his wont, Otter directly takes on the federal government. “Make no mistake: The responsibility and jurisdiction to manage fish and resident wildlife belong to the State of Idaho,” he writes. You can read his full letter here, which includes this comment, “If the current use of the manmade reservoir, which includes a multitude of recreation activities, has produced such a high-quality wildlife refuge, then it makes sense for those activities to continue.”

Attached to Otter's letter, at the same link, is a five-page detailed comment from the Idaho Department of Fish & Game, which isn't as confrontational, says Fish & Game “anticipate(s) a cooperative working relationship with Refuge staff in managing fish and wildlife,” and calls for much more restricted no-wake zones, developing additional fishing access at Gott's Point and other areas, and addresses hunting and other issues. Also attached is a two-page formal comment from Idaho State Parks & Rec, backing continuing current management strategies and calling for much more limited no-wake zones. “Restricting boating access would severely impact Canyon County boaters,” the state parks department wrote.