Need Counseling?

Lawmakers, Otter begin to part ways


You know a marriage is well past the honeymoon stage when bickering over household issues begins. For the Idaho Legislature and Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, that time is now.

First, they fussed over the house they share, and its remodeling project. Few things can strain a marriage faster. For the denizens of the Statehouse, the issue of the building's expansion and renovation has yet to be fully resolved. A "compromise" on the reconstruction that was recently agreed to will still need to be vetted before the House and Senate.

"All of this," said Keith Johnson, secretary of the Department of Administration, "is still a work in progress."

With both sides eyeing their pocketbooks, and the wallpaper options, counseling may yet be in order.

Move then to the refrigerator's contents, and the receipts that pile up for that, and you have the next skirmish now playing out for the newlyweds. Early this week the House Revenue and Tax Committee voted 15-3 to send a grocery-tax-cut bill to the House floor for a vote. The bill that made it out of committee, House Bill 81, was not the bill advocated by Otter. His measure would have targeted Idaho's poorest for relief from the sales tax the state currently levies on groceries. His bill was turfed by lawmakers in favor of the more sweeping measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Clifford Bayer of Boise. Bayer's bill, which is supported by Sen. Russ Fulcher, a Meridian Republican, would cost the state about $47 million in lost sales tax revenue, about twice the amount that Otter's bill would cost. Bayer and Fulcher's bill, which has broad support from lawmakers, would increase the year-end food tax credit from $35 for seniors and $20 for other Idahoans to $70 for seniors and $50 for most Idahoans.

"We've been forthright with the governor on this subject from the start," Bayer said after the vote.

Indeed, even the minority Democrats said they weren't sure Otter was so fired up about his own bill. In a meeting with their caucus Monday, several Democrats said, Otter was strangely mum about food-tax issues, and didn't mention his now-dead bill.

For a new marriage, not fighting is hopeful progress, many marriage counselors say. In their book Fighting for Your Marriage: Positive Steps for Preventing Divorce and Preserving a Lasting Love, authors Howard Markman, Scott Stanley and Susan Blumberg say how a couple manages their troubles speaks volumes about their future. "If you want to have a great relationship, the way you handle differences matters more than what those differences are," they write.

Still, the hardest may yet come. The session has only just gotten going, and lawmakers and Otter have yet to really grapple with the issue of their pets: elk ranching and wolf hunting.