Otter on fed stimulus: It's complicated


Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter, addressing a media scrum assembled by Boise's Associated Press shop this morning, said that he's not sure he'd vote for an "economic stimulus" package were he still in Congress today.

"If I were in Congress and I looked at it, someone would have to be more convincing than they have been and I probably would say no," Otter said.

Still, Otter spoke at length about his priorities should Congress pass a bunch of cash to the states for infrastructure projects. The state has assembled some $2.4 billion [EDIT A spreadsheet provided by Otter's office indicates just under $2 billion in projects] in "shovel ready" projects that could use an infusion of federal dollars, though estimates for Idaho's share of the stimulus now hover around $75- to $100 million. The Idaho Transportation Department yesterday, put together its own wish-list, which in some cases did not jive with Otter's.

President-elect Barack Obama offered some further justifications for massive borrowing and spending today: “Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy–where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs, which leads to even less spending,” Obama said, as quoted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Obama's proposal, which could total $800 billion according to the CSM, but may be shrinking by the day, will include money for alternative energy projects, broadband and computerized medical records.

“Yes, we’ll put people to work repairing crumbling roads, bridges, and schools by eliminating the backlog of well-planned, worthy and needed infrastructure projects. But we’ll also do more to retrofit America for a global economy," Obama said.

Many states are going right for new asphalt in their lists, ignoring the calls for repair work. Idaho Smart Growth executive director Rachel Winer suggested yesterday that the state consider using the money for transportation projects aside from just road building, including upping the percentage that goes to repair already crumbling roads.

Winer gave Idaho credit for making its stimulus request public, one of only 16 states that has done so.

Otter was asked whether this anticipatory federal stimuli might be used as an excuse by certain lawmakers to stave off road funding needs for another year, to which he responded: "I was always looking for a way to say no to an increase in taxes..." And then added that no, the stimulus will be one-time projects and Idaho Transportation Department still needs new revenue sources.