Wednesday, April 8, 2015

$127M Transportation Bill Paves Way Home for Idaho Legislature

Posted By on Wed, Apr 8, 2015 at 2:38 PM

The "going home" bill of the 2015 edition of the Idaho Legislature—a $127 million transportation funding measure—made its way out of what is presumably one of the last committee sessions of the year, when the Senate Transportation Committee sent House Bill 310 to the full Senate on Wednesday with a "do pass" recommendation.

The bill shifts nearly $16 million away from the General Fund—which is currently earmarked for Idaho State Police—toward road work, something Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has publicly said he would not support. However, Otter refused to come up with his own transportation funding plan, opting to leave the task to the Legislature.

"I will not entertain proposals that compete for General Fund tax dollars," Otter warned the Legislature in his State of the State Address on Jan. 12.

The House has already passed HB 310 by a 39-31 vote. Meridian Republican Rep. Jason Monks, the bill's sponsor, told the Senate Transportation Committee that the fuel tax was "a dying tax" and "it's not going to be enough." Instead, he said, the Legislature should look at the General Fund as a source for transportation funding.

The $127 million funding bill, however, falls far short of Idaho's needs. Idaho Transportation Director Brian Ness told lawmakers in February that "$262 million is needed just to preserve the system in the condition it's in." What's more, according to a 2010 legislative task force, "transportation in Idaho is underfunded by $543 million annually," Ness said.

Ultimately, there was no debate in the Senate Transportation Committee, and members voted 6-3 to forward it to the full Senate.
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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Idaho Teachers Union on Salary Proposal: 'Cosmetic and Questionable'

Posted By on Sun, Mar 1, 2015 at 8:42 AM

Saying that a controversial teacher salary proposal "fails to recognize the value of experienced teachers, takes far too long to fully activate, and will not come close to keeping pace with compensation levels in surrounding states," the Idaho Education Association (the teachers' union) is pushing back against the plan, which is expected to be the subject of a full-throated debate in the House Education Committee this week.

Without offering it as a formal bill, the plan surfaced Feb. 27 when a spokeswoman for Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter detailed how the plan would be incremental— it wouldn't be at its target goals until 2019. After the five year implementation, or so-called "residency," teachers would make $37,000-$39,000 annually, and "professional" teachers (those with more than three years experience) would make $42,5000 -$50,000. The plan includes other incentives for teachers with master's degrees or who have shown evidence of academic growth among a majority of their students. The "career ladder" salary package would cost about $30 million.

IEA President Penni Cyr says the proposal "may actually create even more frustrations and controversy," adding that the plan could put rural school districts at a disadvantage in a "tug of war with more affluent districts."

"Our members are disappointed that after all of the fanfare surrounding the Governor's Task Force and rhetoric about Idaho's renewed commitment to public education, a largely cosmetic and structurally questionable plan is what has been drafted," said Cyr.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

AP: Balukoff Outspending Otter on TV Ads

Posted By on Wed, Sep 24, 2014 at 9:48 AM

Democratic contender for governor A.J. Balukoff has outspent incumbent Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter on television ads, Kimberlee Kruesi of the Associated Press reports.

The nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity released an analysis of political television ads Wednesday that concluded that Balukoff had spend more than $500,000 on some 2,800 statewide television advertisements by Sept. 8. During the same period, Otter spent almost $121,000 on more than 500 political television ads.

The analysis determined that the ads have not attacked the candidates' opponents. The report did not include information about radio, online or direct mail ads, nor did it include information about money spent on local cable channels or production costs, and full political ad spending may be much higher for both candidates. 

According to the report, spending on television ads is sharply higher this campaign season than it was in 2010, when Idaho gubernatorial candidates spent a total of $161,440 for 1,391 ads.
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Monday, July 1, 2013

Otter Names Kathy Simpson, Wife of Rep. Mike Simpson, to Judicial Council

Posted By on Mon, Jul 1, 2013 at 12:57 PM

The wife of Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson, who represents Idaho's 2nd Congressional District, has been appointed to the Idaho Judicial Council, according to a July 1 news release from the office of Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter.

Otter appointed Kathy Simpson, of Idaho Falls, to the seven-member council, which, according to the release, “oversees discipline and retirement of judicial officers.” The council also considers and submits nominations for judicial appointments to the governor.

Simpson, a Utah State University degree-holder, is a member of the State Board of Veterinary Medicine and serves on the advisory board for the McClure Center for Public Policy Research at the University of Idaho.

Retired from a 20-year career at the Idaho National Laboratory, followed by years in banking, Simpson succeeds Ronald Nate, a member of the economics faculty at BYU-Idaho, in Rexburg, whose term ended June 30.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Butch Otter Explains it All—Sort Of

Posted By on Thu, Mar 25, 2010 at 10:11 AM

Roughly 150 eager and bright-eyed members of the Boise Young Professionals, wearing smart looking suits and accessories by Blackberry crowded into the Garden Level West Wing at The Capitol yesterday evening. They were there for a meet and greet with Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, where Otter was to explain why they, as young professionals, should stay in Idaho.

Gov. Butch Otter could charter the Star Old Professionals group.
  • Gov. Butch Otter could charter the Star Old Professionals group.
He appeared at the podium in cowboy boots, with a traditional old west long-tail coat, looking just a mustache and a 10-gallon hat short of Wyatt Earp, speaking about animal husbandry and high school football, then name-dropping Albertsons, Simplot and Micron as some of Idaho’s greatest hits, closing with the slightly puzzling summation that BYP members should stay in Idaho because “this is where it’s happening, and this is where it’s going to happen."

Otter then took several audience questions about what he felt the next growth industry would be for Idaho, what he was doing to attract it, why businesses should look to Idaho for an educated workforce when his Legislature kept cutting funds to education, why young people should want to live in Idaho as opposed to neighboring states that didn’t keep cutting funding to state parks and other services that improve quality of life, and if he felt the state’s liquor laws hindered the growth of the food and beverage industry.

Responses included pontification on the differences between a job and a career, pot shots at California’s budget troubles and the school system in Washington D.C., a series of talking points supporting The Idaho Health Freedom Act, and brief touches on technological advances in logging; all doused in party-line rhetoric about taxes.

He did say that he disagreed with the state’s liquor laws and felt they hampered growth, but didn’t feel that he as the governor had any power to do anything about it since it was already in the Constitution.

When the event moderator tried to reframe a jobs question for a more direct answer, Otter broke down the two things he felt entrepreneurs need: electrical infrastructure, and an educated workforce.

Then he explained how Idaho imports much of its power, and was unable to attract software giant Oracle because it couldn’t guarantee the required wattage, as well as grousing that rates would likely have to rise soon.

After that, he addressed education: “Are we ever going to be able to compete with colleges and universities in other states? I don’t think we can,” he said.

Of primary education, his opinion was that “for the most part, it’s what you make of it,” that so long as a student’s family was there to augment the classroom, students would be able to muddle through. “It’s still a mystery to me why we don’t have more students going to college,” he added.

So how did event attendees feel about his presentation?

“It was flat out embarrassing,” said Dave Quintana, a BYP member. “Everything was about old industry, without any mention of tech.” Quintana works three jobs in web development and education.

“He didn’t answer anyone’s questions about anything,” said BYP member Chryssa Rich.

Rich, who is chair of the Ada County Democrats, said that she hadn’t really expected Otter to win her over, but she’d never expected it to be that bad. “He was completely disconnected. He had no idea who he was talking to or why he was here.”

Despite the heavy political bent, frustration reached across the aisle.

“If anything, he gave me more of a reason to run,” said Caroline Pavlinik, a Republican member of BYP. “He offered no specifics, and circumvented every question with the past … I just kept thinking to myself, how many people in this room are involved in animal husbandry?”

Another BYP member who described herself as very conservative, said she is already looking for jobs out of state, because she wants to be in an environment of more motivated people, that Idaho is too full of regressionist mentalities like Gov. Otter's. Not wanting her firm to learn of her job-search, she declined to give her name.

After the event, BYP members met at Bardenay, networking and chatting about what their hopes had been for the event.

“I wanted to see what his vision for the future was. He didn’t have any vision, and that’s scary,” said Tim Basford, an Engineer at Micron.

“What he said about starting your own business; you can do that anywhere. The Idaho garages are the same as the Washington garages,” said Greg, who also declined to give his last name for fear of it coming back to him at work.

“Look, I don’t care about comparisons between now and when he was a kid,” said educational consultant Tucker Slosbrug. “He talked about Idaho being a good place to settle down. But this generation is more transient, we’re interested in jobs that you can come in, do for a few years and then move on. I wanted to know how he planned to make that happen.”

Still, despite the criticisms, BYP founder Ben Quintana (brother of Dave) felt the event was a structural success. “The goal was to give BYP members a chance to have a discussion with the governor. We did that. Everything else, what he said, is interpretive.”

Other BYP members agreed. “If this was a bigger state, like California, an event like this would be $500. It’s great that here in Idaho we had this opportunity,” said one BYP member. “But still, if the election were tomorrow, and this were a stump speech, it wouldn’t even matter who was running against him. He failed.”

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Otter scrimps on fuel tax after speech

Posted By on Mon, Jan 12, 2009 at 4:50 PM

Following his State of the State speech--in which Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter called for an increase in gas taxes, and a host of other new fees and proposals to fill potholes and fix roads--citydesk caught the Guv and First Lady Lori Otter strolling by the Boise River. On the Greenbelt.

Chief of Staff Jason Kreizenbeck and Sgt. Ross Kirtley, Otter's trusty security man, accompanied the First Couple on their walk back to thier black SUV.

citydesk commented to the Guv that the Greenbelt could use some pothole patching of its own, to which the governor replied: "That's because the people that use this greenbelt don't pay their fuel taxes."

He was joshing, of course. And the Greenbelt is maintained by the City of Boise and Ada County, though it does receive some state and federal grants.

At the state's request, we make no comment on the First Lady's footwear (though good on her for keeping it sensible). We only offer this warning: The geese rule the Greenbelt this time of year.

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State of the State liveblog

Posted By on Mon, Jan 12, 2009 at 3:03 PM

citydesk is sitting next to the Times-News's Jared Hopkins, Mr. Capitol Correspondent, who is also blogging and trying to upload his first picture. Awww.
Otter: Thank you for being here today, for the second and probably the last time that this State of the State address will be delivered at Boise State University’s Special Events Center.

Translation: Next year we’ll be back in the House chambers of the new and improved Idaho Statehouse for this shindig.

Otter just wished former U.S. Senator, Jim McClure, a speedy recovery. McClure is at St. Al’s after suffering a stroke on Friday. Thanks to Wikipedia, Google and the fact that citydesk just saw the film Who Killed the Electric Car, we just learned that McClure, who was replaced by Larry Craig in the U.S. Senate in 1980, was a huge proponent of the battery cars. According to this 1980 Time article, the auto industry bailout bill of the time included incentives for developing electrics… hmmmm..
Otter: Ladies and gentlemen, as a member of the Idaho House of Representatives 32 years ago, I ran for Governor on the principle that “Idaho can become what America was meant to be. I believe now as I did then that Idaho has a better chance than anywhere else of becoming what the forefathers envisioned in Philadelphia.
Translation: I can’t do this forever people. We are heretofore funding a sculpture contest for a cracked bell. But not through the Arts Commission, for which I am recommending a 15 percent budget cut.

Otter refers to Ben Franklin’s “laboratory of the republic.” We can’t find the reference… anyone? It probably refers to the states as the labs, which makes us … uh …. Lab rats? Must have something to do with Otter’s, “keeping the ideals of freedom, personal responsibility, and empowerment of the people at the forefront of any government agenda.”
Otter is setting up his argument for slash and burn rather than raising taxes to fund government programs. “Dreams of a state government that understands its intended role in people’s lives and–first and foremost–a government that understands how to live within the people’s means.” And then the old, “Too many Idahoans are struggling to make ends meet, and having to make tough choices in their personal and household budgets.”

Otter’s penny pinching role models who died in 2008: Warren McCain, Albertsons CEO who succeeded Joe Albertson; Loiuse Shadduck, a former Coeur d’Alene Press columnist turned political operative ; J.R. Simplot, his ex-father-in-law/boss; and Vietnam chopper pilot Ed Freeman.

Otter just went off script and gave props to Ben Otter. Can someone tell me the relation?

Otter is bragging on zero-based budgeting, but offers no dollar figure on savings. Well, he's about to... if you can't tell, this is actually not live, it's pre-blogged with some live componentry. It's totally innovative.
And the numbers: Otter wants a 7.33 percent cut to next years budget, based on what the Legislature approved for the current year’s budget. That amounts to almost $217 million (okay $216,939,200). It’s a $75.8 million cut to public schools (5.34 percent cuts), $44 million to Health and Welfare (7.5 percent cut) … well, that’s enough for now.

Oh, Otter wants to talk about more cuts: 10 percent for higher ed, corrections and water resources down 12, ag is cut 31 percent? We’ll have to check that one out… He does not mention the 51.4 percent cuts to public television, maybe because you might be watching him on… public television (the cuts are for infrastructure and technology improvements that Idaho PTV still needs in the face of the digital television transition. This may be the last State of the State you watch on Idaho PTV, depending on where you live… KTVB, you guys gonna bid on the coverage next year?)

Otter is dipping into some of the state’s savings, but not all of it. He’ll use 35 percent of rainy day funds by the end of fiscal year 2010.

Hat tip (wink, wink, nod, nod) to JFAC and tax committee chairmen.
Project 60? First we’ve heard of that… Idaho Falls knows about it though-Otter’s dream of $60 billion in gross domestic product in six years (2014?).
And now, on transportation. Gov is called his road funding plan the Transportation Initiative: cut 10 percent of Idaho Transportation Department administrative costs, prepare annual accountability report showing how money is spent, 2 cents per gallon increase in gas taxes each year for five years taking Idaho’s gas tax to 35 cents a gallon in 2015.

Otter will also jack vehicle registration fees, slap a 6 percent excise tax on rental cars and, interestingly, eliminate the ethanol exemption on the fuels tax. And he wants to examine truckers (there is a giant picture of Otter with House Transportation Committee/trucker JoAn Wood up on the dual screens behind Guv). And he wants to know how much sales tax revenue comes from auto related sales for possible general fund contribution to roads (as Wood has suggested).

And, no, that is not a halo on the cell phone picture I took. I have Leila's special camera on hand for the press conference after the speech. And another thing, this is pretty much as far as I got before the speech started... so for the remainder of the speech, I'm winging it.
Otter on his education reorganization plan: The State Board of Education is too involved in library commission, Historical Society, Vocational Rehabilitiation, and the Archeological Survey. So Luna and the Department of Ed will get more of its responsibilities back. Board of Ed will go back to it’s policy setting mission.

Otter on health care: Aug. 2007 panel gave him recommendations on making health care more affordable. On Jan. 17 he is reconvening the panel, which apparently includes all of the state’s big health insurance companies, whose logos are displayed on the big screens behind Otter.
Otter wants us on our best behavior for the 2009 Special Olympics coming to Idaho next month, which he says will include more athletes and participating nations than the SLC winter games plus all their families and fans. Feb 7-13 “will be an opportunity for all of Idaho to shine in the International spotlight. “

Otter has had hip surgery, gone all over the world and traveled all over the state listening to us since the last State of the State.

Favorite budget cut anecdote: Capital for a Day in Rathdrum: lady stepped up to the mike to put a face on Otter’s holdbacks. “Her son was born with autism and the prescription through the analysis said that he would require 30 hours a week,” Otter is saying.

"She did put a face on that," Otter says. "As I look at every cut, as I look at every reversal of a program I look at this young child that deserves more."

But then she said something else: "And you people don’t care." To that Otter takes exception.

Otter brought up Spencer at the AP Legislative preview a few days ago. I asked him what he told the mom.

"As we find impasses, let’s then remember this child and let’s all look to the day that we can offer that eight hours back." Would have been a better closer than the traditional/obligatory god bless.

Now everyone is being escorted out in proper order.... we have to move to the presser... will continue later in a new post.

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State of the State in about an hour

Posted By on Mon, Jan 12, 2009 at 1:52 PM

Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter's State of the State speech is about an hour out. citydesk will be there live and trying to host a running commentary on the event, if we can secure wi-fi... so check back would ya?

The speech begins at 3 p.m. at Boise State University's Special Events Center in the student union (doors close at 2:30). You can follow along on Idaho Public Television's live legislative streaming.

We are already reviewing an advance copy of the speech; the press is asked not to release it until after the speech. So ya'all have to wait. But it's well known that Otter is requesting some serious cuts to state government and his philosophical underpinnings are similar to last year's speech. And the one before, and before that.... stay tuned.

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