by Deanna Darr
When Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter kicks off the 2012 Idaho legislative session on Monday with his State of the State address, he will once again launch a four-month debate about what's best for Idaho.
Jackie Nefzger wants lawmakers, and Otter in particular, to focus more on Idaho itself.
"I would love to hear the governor—who put a knife in the Frank Church Wilderness last summer—apologize for that at the State of the State," said Nefzger, referring to Otter's comments that one hole at a Coeur d'Alene golf course brought in more money on one day than the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness brings in an entire year.
Nefzger, secretary and general manager of Mackay Wilderness Trips, which she has run with her partner since 1991, offers high-end backcountry trips, including whitewater rafting, fishing and even hunting trips. She even helped push the Idaho Whitewater license plate through the legislature, and assists in deciding where the funds go in an effort to rebrand Idaho for its whitewater instead of potatoes.
"[Otter] doesn't realize how important tourism is to the state of Idaho," said Nefzger. "He's a silver spoon. This state is dying and we need tourism. The Frank Church Wilderness brings millions [of dollars] to the state."
Nefzger said she's also pretty tired of large companies being given what she called massive tax breaks at the expense of the state and small businesses.
"Look at who has the power in the Idaho Legislature," said Nefzger. "They're all from farming communities. It's the gold-old-boy system. [The legislature] just cuts taxes and do what goes along with that. They don't support tourism. They think we should be cutting down trees."
Nefzger said with such a small tourism budget, she doesn't have much hope for adequate funding.
"You won't get those guys to give tourism a dime after they've gutted education," she said.