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Idaho to restart $4,500 monthly housing allowance for governor June 1

Idaho plans to resume paying a $4,500 monthly governor's housing stipend to Gov. Butch Otter starting June 1, the AP reports, as it clears out furniture from the vacant governor's mansion in Boise where he never lived in preparation for returning the home to J.R. Simplot's family. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller. The state decided earlier this year to give the hilltop mansion back to the descendants of Simplot, the billionaire potato mogul who donated the 7,400-square-foot home to be used as a residence for Idaho's chief executive in 2004, four years before he died at age 99. Otter, Simplot's former son-in-law, declined to live in it, however, and escalating costs of about $180,000 annually to water the expansive lawn and maintain the 33-year-old home threatened to quickly drain what had once been a $1.5 million fund to cover housing expenses for the state's chief executive. It's dwindled to just $775,000, as maintenance, electricity and repair costs added up.

The decision to restore the housing stipend to 2009 levels — it was discontinued after the house was ready to live in following renovations — was unanimous among the Republican and Democratic members of the Governor's Housing Committee. The panel concluded the $54,000 annual cost was a relative bargain, compared to keeping the home. "It's a lot cheaper than $179,000," said Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, who said future governors may not be from the Boise area and could require support beyond their salary to maintain a second residence and entertain official guests, as Otter does now at his ranch west of Boise.

Wonderland at Gov mansion? 1 day only

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire and her husband Mike have picked out their costumes to greet trick-or-treaters next week.

The governor will be appearing as Alice, of Wonderland fame. Mike Gregoire will be dressed as the White Rabbit.

During Gregoire's tenure, the mansion has been open to trick-or-treaters for a couple hours on Halloween, with the first couple basing costumes on everything from Sesame Street to the Addams Family. This year, they'll be answering the door from 6 to 8 p.m.

Does Sesame Street have a governor?

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire's office just revealed one of the year's most eagerly awaited announcements: What  the governor will be for Halloween.

Gregoire and her husband Mike traditionally don costumes and greet kids at the governor's mansion for a couple of hours on Halloween to give out treats. (Don't even think about tricks. The mansion's security is provided by state troopers.)

This year, the governor will be dressed as Elmo from Sesame Street. Mike Gregoire will be dressed as Super Grover, which the office describes for those who are not close followersr of "the Street" as Grover's "super hero alter ego." Some of the chocolate bars will have tickets to a special holiday reception in December.

Not clear yet is whether Gregoire will be practicing Elmo's high-pitched voice at press conferences between now and Oct. 31.

Decoration and treats are covered by surplus campaign funds. Good thing, because with the state's current budget problems, the office would be hard pressed to buy a bag of candy corn and give it out one kernel at a time.