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Governor Otter Surfaces at Idaho Tax Conference Amid Rumors of a Trump Administration Appointment

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Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter - STATE OF IDAHO
  • State of Idaho
  • Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter
Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter insists taxes aren't the first subject to come up in discussions with companies contemplating a move to Idaho.

"They usually ask 'quality of life' questions, and then they'll ask about education or our transportation systems," said Otter. "It's only when you get down to the fourth, perhaps fifth, issue when they'll ask, 'What's your tax policy?'"

More than a few heads shook in disagreement Wednesday when the governor delivered his remarks at the 70th annual Associated Taxpayers of Idaho conference in Boise. Otter indicated he didn't have any immediate plans to call for tax relief, but quickly added, "I'm willing to look at anything as long as it's reasonable and the lower taxes are in sync with long-term planning.

"I think Idaho has a stable tax base," Otter added, "but what we really have to concentrate on is putting 22,000 people to work."

He was referring to the approximate number of job openings Idaho employers say they have difficulty filling. Out of nearly 30,000 total Idaho job postings in October, the Idaho Department of Labor indicated 22,000 of them were difficult to fill based on qualifications.

"If I were to ask every employer in this room, 'Do you have a "Help Wanted" sign out?' I'd probably see a lot of hands go up," said Otter to a room packed with Idaho employers, lawmakers and policy makers. "I can't even drive through Star [where he lives] and not see 'Help Wanted' signs. It's not for lack of jobs, it's about finding qualified labor."

Lt. Gov. Brad Little - STATE OF IDAHO
  • State of Idaho
  • Lt. Gov. Brad Little
Otter's comments about Idaho jobs came amid speculation about jobs in Washington, D.C.—specifically, whether he'd take one in the administration of soon-to-be-inaugurated President Donald Trump.

More than a few rumors have circulated through Idaho's capital city this week after Otter flew to D.C. and met with Vice President-Elect Mike Pence, with whom Otter served in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1970s.

While Otter confirmed he was in the nation's capital on Tuesday, he was tight-lipped on whether he might be considered as a prime candidate for secretary of the interior. Rather, he told conference attendees he was lobbying on the sage grouse issue.

Otter wouldn't be the first Idaho governor to run the U.S. Department of the Interior—Gov. Cecil Andrus was interior secretary under President Jimmy Carter from 1977-1981 and Gov. Dirk Kempthorne held the job under President George W. Bush from 2006-2009.

Should Otter end up packing his bags for D.C., the odds on bet is Lt. Gov. Brad Little would be the man to sit behind his desk at the Statehouse. Little also delivered a blink-and-you'll-miss-it speech at the Associated Taxpayers conference, in which he concluded that good tax policy should be "fair, simple, predictable and competitive."

"I wrote those down 10 years ago and they have served me well," he said, prompting a lot more heads nodding in agreement.

When Little finished his brief speech, ATI President Miguel Legarreta made a slip-up that was either accidental or prescient when he referred to Little as "Governor Little." The misapplied title didn't register one laugh.