Writings and observations

Otter’s page, and the Legislature’s

Here was a heartfelt statement: Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney, saying to Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter just before his state of the state speech – “Hopefully, we can all be on the same page when you leave this place today.”

The fact that, on a few key matters, they weren’t on the same page last year resulted in an unusually long and difficult session.

The matters ahead of this session are not simple, and Otter said of that his state of the state’s this one was longest. But Otter and the legislators may be more closely on the same page this time.

“Number one: We must not raise taxes.” That was core point number one in the speech. There were words about protecting education, health and safety, but “no taxes” came first. The operating majority in the legislature is unlikely to see it differently.

In fact, the speech taken as a whole was a conservative red-meat speech, starting with the tax talk and going on from there. Without reaching over any improper bounds, it could have functioned as Otter’s re-election campaign opener: A statement of philosophical principles and an argument for why he wants to continue to do the job.

It included a celebration of business, anchored by a long, long list of business leaders – far more of them than any other group of Idahoans. (As the speech structured it, the business owners or executives were the focus of the celebration, not so much the employees or the business per se.) Many were there at the statehouse, and Otter asked them to “please stand and let us thank you.”

The speech was very philosophical on government – lots of lines abut small government, local government, the federal government doing bad things, about government getting out of the way. (A lot of this could have been lifted from an Otter gubernatorial campaign speech in 1978.)

“Idahoans don’t believe good government means more government or bigger government,” he said, rather it means a government that understands its limitations – what it shouldn’t do. (Which logically raises the question of why it should not be got rid of altogether, if it’s so useless.) After which, state employees got a quick note of thanks as well.

He proposed a number of specific changes, including cuts of 400 state jobs (375 of those, he said, currently are vacant) and a cut in public school spending.

The closest thing to a social program was a further small increase in the grocery tax credit – a tax cut, while costing the state funds, is an easier sell than something actively spending money.

There’s little here that the majority of Idaho legislators are likely to disagree with. This certainly could be the short session the governor and legislative leaders say they want.

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