BOISE – Two different polls are out in Idaho’s U.S. Senate race, the hot race for the open seat created by the retirement of Sen. Larry Craig. But the results are so different as to suggest they were for different races.
Independent candidate Rex Rammell last week released results of his poll, conducted from the end of August to Sept. 2, asking 550 likely Idaho voters who they’d choose in the Senate race – after being told the “name, occupation and ages of the three leading candidates.” Rammell is the youngest at age 47; Republican Jim Risch and Democrat Larry LaRocco both are in their 60s. The results: Risch, 40 percent; LaRocco, 30 percent; Rammell, 10 percent; and 20 percent undecided.
On the same day, Rasmussen Reports, which conducts automated polling across the nation, issued its own Idaho Senate poll, which queried 500 likely Idaho voters on Sept. 9. The firm found 58 percent for Risch and 30 percent for LaRocco; no numbers were released for other candidates or undecided voters. The Rasmussen poll found high favorability ratings for Risch – 62 percent – with LaRocco at 42 percent. It also reported that 49 percent of respondents gave Gov. Butch Otter good or excellent ratings for job performance.
The previous poll released in the race, from Idaho pollster Greg Smith, found 23 percent still undecided in the race, Risch with 41 percent, LaRocco 29 percent, and Rammell 3 percent. It was conducted Aug. 18 through 22 and queried 600 likely Idaho voters.
The race also includes Libertarian Kent Marmon and independent Pro-Life, formerly known as Marvin Richardson.
For barbers, not such a good year
In 2007, the occupation with the lowest median wage in Idaho was barber, according to a new labor market information report from the state Department of Labor. Idaho barbers made a median wage of just $6.67 an hour in 2007, according to the report, followed by fast-food cooks at $6.82 and waiters and waitresses at $6.83. At the other end of the scale, the occupation with the highest median wage was pediatrician, at $67.03 per hour; followed by judges at $64.26; actuaries at $57.18; and nuclear engineers at $49.37. Overall, the median wage for all jobs in Idaho rose just 2.4 percent in 2007 from 2006, the lowest gain since 2003 when Idaho’s median wage actually went down.
Idaho PUC building going on auction block
Idaho’s top state officials, meeting as the state Land Board, have voted unanimously to auction off the state office building that now houses the Idaho Public Utilities Commission’s offices, along with two other tenants. The office building, called Central Washington Place, is at 602 N. Fifth St. in Boise, right across the street from a state high-rise office tower and in what’s called the “capitol mall” area near the state capitol.
A “comprehensive financial analysis” of state endowment-owned buildings in the capitol mall area concluded that this one isn’t a good one for short- and long-term earnings to the state endowment fund. “It was determined that it would be in the best interest of the beneficiaries to auction the Central Washington Place commercial property,” according to a staff report presented to the Land Board.
The minimum bid was set at $3.3 million, and the auction will take place in February of 2009. The 1973 building, which has a parking garage below, is 30,087 square feet on 0.84 acres; it’s fully occupied and would have to be sold subject to the existing leases with tenants. According to law, proceeds from the sale would go into a fund for purchasing other property that could generate gains for the endowment.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Lands is proposing that the state buy the site of its St. Joe Area Office in St. Maries, which now is owned by the city. The state’s lease on that property expires in 2009, though there could be a one-year extension.
Otter backs personnel rule changes
Gov. Butch Otter’s office issued this statement on two controversial personnel rule changes his administration imposed on Aug. 24:
“The changes detailed in the temporary rule represent responsible stewardship of limited taxpayer resources and are consistent with best management practices in any large organization – public or private. It’s the right thing to do. The Legislature will have the opportunity to review and make its own determination on the rules in January. In the meantime, we look forward to discussing this personnel function with any legislator who has questions or concerns.”
Lawmakers, state employees and a union have raised concerns about the unilateral changes, which include requiring state workers to take sick leave if they go to a doctor’s appointment, and laying off sick workers on short-term disability after 12 weeks, rather than after six months. The workers get the six months of disability, but lose the right to return to their jobs when they recover unless the agency has another opening for a comparable job.
Well, there was a full moon …
Gov. Otter was moving briskly along after presiding over a brief state Board of Examiners meeting, and was ready to start the state Land Board meeting – but state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna wasn’t there yet. Luna serves on the Land Board, but not on the Board of Examiners. “Do you know if Tom’s going to be here today?” Otter asked, and then cracked, “He’s on Lunar time.” Otter started the meeting with the proviso that the board would pause if it came to something for which it wanted to await Luna’s arrival, and Luna showed up within just a couple of minutes.
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