Otter: "Stay the Course."

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Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter rallied members of the 2011 Idaho Legislature at a banquet on Nov. 8, telling them that the recent election, which further strengthened Republicans’ statewide majority, was “reassuring” and spoke to Idahoans’ general approval of the way the statehouse has governed during the past few tumultuous years.

“As I look down through the scrolls and the counties—with the exception of a couple—the people of Idaho said, ‘Stay the course.’ The people of Idaho said, ‘You did the right thing,’” he said.

Otter’s speech was the first time he’s addressed members of the 2011 Legislature, and was delivered at the Coeur d’Alene Inn as part of the North Idaho Legislative Tour, sponsored by the North Idaho Chamber of Commerce Nov. 7-9.

But while Otter was triumphant about the actions of the Legislature over the past three years, which included an historic $128 million, 7 percent cut to the public education budget, he also cautioned lawmakers that things likely won’t get any easier.

“Was it tough to do? Yes. Is it going to be tough to do? I believe it’s going to be even tougher this next session,” he said. “In the 120 years that we have had that 43rd star in that flag … this probably is going to be one of the toughest sessions that is coming up.”

The dominant issue, he said, will be whether to find more efficiencies—further “leaning out the government”—or raising taxes.

“And I, for one, am for the former and against the latter,” he said.

Quoting at length from political philosopher John Stuart Mill, Otter said that “Idaho is fit for freedom,” and in an apparent reference to the multi-state lawsuit he helped initiate against that federal government over health care reforms, that fitness for freedom includes “the responsibility of saying on occasion that we need to push back on the federal government.”

Otter’s line about “push back” drew a hearty round of applause from the vast majority of lawmakers, and he rounded out the speech with another shot across the feds’ bow.

“We’re not going to be changing the course of government at the next whim or the next legislative session,” he said. “… I believe we will continue to show the nation that Idaho has the solutions; it’s Washington D.C. that’s the problem.”