In response to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's Monday State of the State speech, Idaho Democrats held a press conference today to outline their dissatisfaction with Otter's proposed budget, as well as Republican legislation in general.
Otter's speech outlined some of the most jarring aspects of his recent budget recommendation, like a steep cut in public schools, which until Monday had dodged mid-year cutbacks. However, the governor failed to mention his proposed liquidation of state funding for agencies like Idaho Public Television or the downsizing and rollover of the Department of Parks and Recreation into the Department of Lands.
House Minority Leader Rep. John Rusche, of Lewiston, and Boise Sen. Kate Kelly, Senate minority leader, flanked by Democratic party members, presented a statement that accusingly questioned the Otter administration.
"During the last decade, Idaho's Republican leaders have made short-sighted decisions to hand out tax breaks to their special-interest supporters. They have hijacked the future of our children by shifting control away from the local school districts," Kelly said.
Kelly and Rusche questioned the cuts to Idaho public schools, citing the need for "good schools" to perpetuate "good jobs." The Democrats continually called for "good jobs," though offered little description of what type, or in what industry.
The Democrats suggested that more than 2/3 of Idaho's 114 school districts would be forced to declare financial emergencies under Otter's proposed 2011 budget (initially Kelly misstated the number of school districts).
"Our children are our future. We cannot continue to erode their educational opportunities. Idahoans deserve a government and leaders willing to invest in a sound future for our children and the generations to come," Kelly said.
The governor also received flak from his up and coming Democratic opponent, Keith Allred, who stated in a press release on Jan. 11 that Otter had delivered, "a message of decline and retreat."
"This is when we need a leader who understands that Idahoans are as capable as we've always been. We can come barreling out of this downturn if we have the right vision," Allred continued.
Allred suggested a similar position as that of the Democratic legislators—that is, proposing new revenue sources rather than budget cutbacks. Both groups suggested closing tax exemption "loopholes" as Kelly and Rusche put it, or perhaps investing to fill the Idaho State Tax Commission's collection gap.
Taking hits from the other side of the spectrum, Idaho Falls veterinarian/perennial candidate Rex Rammell called for an end to corporate and personal income tax in Idaho, along with an end to welfare programs and dissolution of the state's K-12 school system, returning education to local jurisdictions.
"By making Idaho one of the most business friendly states in the union by elimination of our personal and corporate income tax, employment opportunities will be created for many of our citizens who currently are living off welfare. For the citizens who cannot work and still need help we must shift this responsible to the local level. This responsibility rightfully belongs to our local charities."
—The Rammell Plan
So Rammell and state Dems agree on one thing: the 2006 shift of school funding from property taxes to general fund revenue was a big mistake. Doubt they agree on much more though ...