Idaho Dems: Otter 'Sees Wisdom in Our Approach'

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Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett (left) and House Minority Leader John Rusche (second from left) delivered the Democratic response to Gov. Otter's State of the State Address this morning, backed by a dozen Democratic legislators. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett (left) and House Minority Leader John Rusche (second from left) delivered the Democratic response to Gov. Otter's State of the State Address this morning, backed by a dozen Democratic legislators.

On Tuesday morning, a dozen Democratic legislators gathered in the Minority Caucus Room to give their response to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's State of the State address on Monday. 

The speech—delivered by Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett (D- Ketchum) and House Minority Leader John Rusche (D-Lewiston)—was peppered with discreet messages of "we told you so" throughout.

"We're pleased that Gov. Otter outlined many priorities in his address that Idaho Democrats have championed for years," Rusche said to a room full of cameras and notepads. "We appreciate the governor beginning to see the wisdom in our approach."

Stennett and Rusche congratulated the governor on his acknowledgement of the need for more education funding, support for workforce training and prioritizing infrastructure. 

Much of the speech was spent berating the GOP for "policies of the past 20 years [that] have driven bright, young people away from Idaho," because of insufficient wages. The Democratic legislators plan to push hard to an increase in minimum wage, though, as Rusche pointed out, "You all know that legislation we write doesn't always get printed."

He said they plan us a citizens' initiative to get minimum wage upped in Idaho, if they can't get it on the floor themselves.

"Clearly we need a better way to move forward and our governor and the GOP leaders are beginning to understand that," he said.

The speech also addressed the importance of education funding and not starving Idaho schools while giving away special interest tax breaks. Add the Words came up in a question-answer session after the speech, when Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb said there are no concrete plans in place for a hearing, "but we're having the discussions and working to make it come to fruition."

The Democratic portion of the Idaho Legislature is geared up and ready to keep pushing the GOP toward their agenda of a minimum wage increase and sustained investments in education.

"We have tried to help Idaho drive more often with headlights and less with the rear view mirror," Stennett said.