Archive for the 'Malloy' Category

Sep 15 2014

Eyes on District 15

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MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Sen. Fred Martin of Boise belongs to an exclusive club.

He is the only Republican senator living in the Boise city limits, which is surprising considering Idaho’s status as one of the reddest of the red states.

So while Idaho is decidedly Republican, Boise is ruled by Democrats. Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, a former Democratic legislator, has been in office since 2003. More recently, Brian Cronin – another former Democratic legislator – easily won election to the Boise School Board. The only areas where Democrats may have a stronger foothold are Districts 26 (which includes the Sun Valley area) and 29 (Bannock County).

It didn’t used to be that way. “Twenty years ago, there were three elected legislative Democrats in Ada County; six years ago there were six and now there are 12,” Martin said.

Granted, there are more legislative districts in Ada County than in years past. But there’s no question that Democrats have made some impressive gains over the years, and especially in Boise. Nine seats in three Boise districts (16, 17 and 18) all were held by Republicans years ago. Now, all seats are held by Democrats. District 17, once considered a “swing” district, has no Republicans challenging the Democratic incumbents.

The legislative makeup in Boise has significant implications statewide – and they can be viewed positively or negatively, depending on your political outlook. Democrats, working with moderate Republicans, help turn back calls for the repeal of Obamacare and secure the vote for an Idaho-operated state health exchange. The coalition keeps alive concepts such as Common Core education standards and opens the possibility for Medicare expansion, which has been endorsed by the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry. Democrats help keep the pressure on more funding for education and draw greater attention to a sagging economy and low wages.

If those nine legislative seats in Boise were held by conservative Republicans, Rep. Scott Bedke of Oakley probably would not be the speaker of the House and Gov. Butch Otter would be without his best (if not his only) ally in House leadership. Continue Reading »

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Sep 09 2014

“All the way with Vernon K”

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malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

That was a campaign slogan for Democrat Vernon K. Smith in the 1962 governor’s race and the rallying cry that I heard a few times that year in my hometown of Osburn. My dad, especially, thought Gov. Robert Smylie had been in office long enough and it was time for a change. Smith’s pro-gambling platform was an attraction to the Silver Valley, where backroom betting was a way of life in the mining community.

Things were a little gloomy in our house when we found out that Smylie had won election to a third term. My dad explained that politics is controlled by those in the southern part of the state and it didn’t matter what people in Shoshone County wanted.
During my professional career, I lived in Idaho Falls for six years and I have been living in Boise for the past 15 – long enough to know that Idahoans in the south are good people who do not carry pitchforks and have horns growing out of their heads. But in politics, they generally get what they want. And at the moment, there seems to be a conspiracy to prevent Silver Valley people from getting the kind of legislators they want in the Statehouse.

In recent years, the Silver Valley has been represented by Democrats with a conservative bent, such as Marti Calabretta, Larry Watson and Mary Lou Shepherd. Today, the Silver Valley delegation consists of two conservative lawmakers from far away – Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll of Cottonwood and Rep. Paul Shepherd of Riggins. The third legislator, Rep. Shannon McMillan, lives in Silverton, but wins by big margins without carrying Shoshone County. Her close ties with Nuxoll and Shepherd give her a lot of votes in the south, making it nearly impossible to beat her in District 7.

A longtime friend of mine who helped draw up the legislative district map understands why people in Shoshone County don’t like the geographic makeup of District 7, but says there was no other way for the independent commission to come up with a plan that meets judicial approval. To people in Shoshone County, District 7 looks, feels and smells like gerrymandering to help the most conservative members of the GOP caucus.

“It’s next to impossible for a Democrat to win,” said Casey Drews, who is opposing Nuxoll but has been more focused on preparing for her bar exam. “They have created the largest district in the state, which already has the largest county in the state – Idaho County, which covers 9,000 square miles. That’s bigger than multiple states in the nation. It’s impossible to campaign there effectively.”

Shepherd and Nuxoll are fine with the arrangement, because they live there. For McMillan, there’s hardly a need to go there. Continue Reading »

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Sep 02 2014

Running against Elvis

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MALLOY

 
In Idaho

People in Meridian don’t attend city council meetings and only 10 percent of school district voters bothered to cast ballots in the last bond election. But when Congressman Raul Labrador comes in for a town hall meeting, a standing-room-only crowd waits for him at city hall – which poses a big problem for State Rep. Shirley Ringo of Moscow, Labrador’s Democratic opponent for the 1st District congressional seat.

She is running against a political rock star.
He’s a Puerto Rican version of John F. Kennedy. He has a quick wit and his humor often is self-depreciating, which is a big hit with the audience. He asks the crowd not to boo questions they might not like, “but if you don’t like my answer, then you can boo me – as long as it’s with love and kindness.”

He talks about President Obama being an ideologue and gives praise to former President Clinton for being a “pragmatic politician” who was smart enough to take credit for Republican accomplishments – such as creating a government surplus. He has charts illustrating how the nation is heading down the tubes if it doesn’t get spending under control and warns that Social Security for him (at 46) and people younger will not look the same as it does today. Changes need to be made.

Not all his criticism is directed at Obama and liberal Democrats. Republicans, he says, will go nowhere unless they do a better job identifying what they are for – rather than what they are against.

Labrador doesn’t always let facts get in the way of good political rhetoric. One questioner asked why he has not cosponsored legislation that would help revive the U.S. Postal Service. He said the postal employees helped create the mess by signing off on a retirement plan that would help employees not even born yet. Actually, it was Congress that created the plan in 2006, bringing the Postal Service to the brink of bankruptcy.

But his explanation sounded good and his analysis of the federal deficit, and other issues, made sense. He promises to continue to “fight for less government, less spending, more accountability and … to fight for the people of Idaho.” Continue Reading »

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Aug 25 2014

On supporting higher education

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MALLOY

 
In Idaho

I am a University of Idaho alum who enjoys following Boise State sports. My golf clubs have “Vandal” headcovers and occasionally I’ll wear a “Bronco” shirt on the course – just to mess with people’s minds and give myself a mental edge. Of course, when I hit a series of errant shots and missed putts, the edge is gone and I become this crazy old guy with a Bronco shirt and Vandal headcovers.

The point I try to make is there is no rivalry. The football rivalry was cooking pretty well for three decades, but ended when Boise State decided to go big time. So, let’s realize that Idaho needs both schools – the land grant university in Moscow and the urban-based university in Boise – to go anywhere with higher education. Idaho also needs strong systems at Idaho State and Lewis-Clark State College to provide higher education opportunities to Idahoans.

As Mike Rush, the executive director of the State Board of Education, tells me – and he’s absolutely correct – we need more opportunities for higher education, not fewer. A strong higher education system is crucial for pulling Idaho out of the dumps in terms of wages.

Now, if Rush can only convince the politicians. Higher education should be a bellwether issue in political campaigns, but it isn’t. Candidates for state offices will talk plenty about the public schools, because Idaho has a constitutional requirement to provide a public education for children. But there is no such requirement for higher education.

“That, combined with the fact that higher education has other sources of funding, has made higher education across the nation a tempting target for balancing the budget,” Rush said.

The decrease in state support for higher education has caused sharp increases in fee and tuition costs. And while higher education is still a bargain in Idaho, compared to other states, it has priced many Idahoans out of the market – to the detriment of the economy.

“We can’t keep going in this direction,” Rush said. “If we keep withdrawing support, our higher education system simply will not be able to deliver the punch that we need to drive our economy for the next 30 years.”

Rush says numerous studies about the relationship between post-secondary education and economic prosperity are clear. “You’ve got to get more people with post-secondary experience,” he said. “That may be a four-year degree, or that may be a two-year degree. Or, maybe it’s an industry certificate that proves additional and specific skills.”

The bottom line is more years of a post-secondary education equal higher salaries. The quality of a higher education system so often is a make-it, or break-it factor for providing businesses and industries that pay higher salaries. Boise State, for example, has upgraded its computer science offerings at the request of high-tech industries. The College of Southern Idaho played an instrumental role in providing a workforce for the Chobani Yogurt Factory in Twin Falls.

Community colleges are designed to provide a relatively quick source of training while higher education focuses more on the long-term needs. “I think higher education gets it, although it can always be better,” Rush said.

Working four years as communications adviser with Idaho House Republicans, I did not sense an appreciation of the value for higher education. Some of the questions I heard asked: Why do we need three universities and, especially, a four-year school in Lewiston? Why do we need four presidents and four layers of administration? Could the state save money by closing down one or two universities? Continue Reading »

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Aug 19 2014

Finishing the debate

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malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Gov. Butch Otter, the longtime “Happy Warrior” of Idaho politics, who prides himself on running “positive campaigns,” has taken on a far different approach against his Democratic challenger, A.J. Balukoff. And Otter is going against political scripture in the process.

Republicans are supposed to cater to the rich while Democrats promote class warfare. What we’re seeing here is a wealthy Republican governor attacking his challenger, a successful businessman, for having too much money and spending large sums to finance his campaign.

“Help us beat our multi-million dollar Democratic opponent,” Otter says in a fund-raising appeal. “(Balukoff) has already started radio and television ads spending roughly $625,000 in the month of August. We need to stop him from buying this election with his self-funding campaign.”

Otter raises much of his campaign funds the old fashioned way – through lobbyists. Otter’s head cheerleader is the powerful Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, which bills itself as non-partisan and usually caters to rich businessmen like Balukoff. But in this campaign, IACI has opened a website (LiberalAJ.com) that lashes Balukoff for standing with President Obama and liberal Democrats.

There’s one big flaw with the premise. Balukoff says he supported Mitt Romney in the last presidential election and contributed generously to his campaign. That hardly makes sense for Idaho’s leading Democratic torch carrier at the moment, but as Balukoff says, he doesn’t care much for partisan politics.

A few things brought up by the Otter campaign are true. Balukoff is a multi-millionaire who plans to spend “what it takes” to get his name and message out statewide. If it takes more than $1 million out of pocket, then so be it.

“I am in this campaign to win,” he said.

Balukoff is taking the right path in this political environment in which money means everything. He cannot rely on the “free media” to run his press releases or cover town hall meetings – as Sen. Russ Fulcher found out in his unsuccessful challenge to Otter in the GOP primary. Balukoff is making many of the same points as Fulcher did regarding the economy and lack of leadership. The difference is Fulcher didn’t have the money to flood the airwaves with his message; Balukoff does.

It’s odd that IACI is putting so much effort into this race, because Balukoff is on the organization’s side on several issues – even more than Otter in some cases. Balukoff says he supports IACI’s positions on a constitutional amendment to reduce the two-thirds voter approval for passage of school board levies, Medicaid expansion and the state health exchange. He stands with IACI in support of Congressman Mike Simpson’s proposal for the Boulder White Clouds wilderness. Otter, by contrast, firmly stands with IACI on only one of those issues – the state health exchange. Continue Reading »

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Aug 12 2014

Stallings’ problem

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MALLOY

 
In Idaho

The other day in Twin Falls, former 2nd District Congressman Richard Stallings approached a 24-year-old waitress and talked about this year’s congressional campaign. As any good politician, he saw an opportunity to win over a potential voter. What she saw was a man who was old enough to be her great-grandfather, which presents a problem for Stallings.

His mind is sharp, he has good health overall, but the 73-year-old Stallings looks every bit of his age – which does little to attract 20-somethings who already are detached from politics. The waitress was just more than a year old when Stallings left Congress in 1993. There’s a whole generation of new voters who were not even born when Stallings served in Congress.

He has other challenges that are even more daunting. Rep. Mike Simpson, seeking his ninth term, is fresh off a resounding victory over tea party candidate Byron Smith in the primary election – proving the 2nd District is not the bastion for conservatism as it was during George Hansen’s heyday in Congress. Simpson’s membership on the Appropriations Committee gives him clout and access to hefty campaign donations. Stallings has little more than a past history and around $17,000 in the bank.

“I have no illusions,” Stallings said. “When I ran before (1984) and was running against someone who had four felony convictions and I barely won. That is not the case now.”

But Stallings says he sees a “path to victory” by pushing for raising the federal minimum wage and immigration reform – issues that tend to attract women and Latinos. He welcomes support from disgruntled conservatives who are bruised from the primary campaign. As for everybody else, Stallings has two major platforms:

1. Throw the bums out.

2. All Republicans are bums – especially House Speaker John Boehner and Simpson, who is one of Boehner’s leading lieutenants. Stallings thinks any Democrat, including California’s Nancy Pelosi, could do a better job leading the House.

“I tell people that if you like Congress – and only about 12 percent of the people do – then stay with Simpson, because he will give you two more years of nothing,” Stallings said. “I am running against the worst Congress in the nation’s history. Simpson is one of the leaders of that Congress and he should be held accountable.” Continue Reading »

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Jul 29 2014

As an example

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MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Don’t look at me to handicap the Miss America Pageant in September. I do a lousy enough job picking winners of sporting events and political elections and I can’t remember the last time I saw a Miss America Pageant.

I will make an exception this year and make a point to watch the competition on television on Sept. 14. And I will go out on a limb and say that Miss Idaho, Sierra Anne Sandison of Twin Falls, has a decent shot at winning. No, she does not hail from the South, or Midwest, which produce long lines of past winners. A Miss Idaho has never won. But Sierra has something that few others have – a compelling story. And all she had to do was walk on stage during the swimsuit competition of the Miss Idaho Pageant with an insulin pump attached to her side.

BOOM! The social media exploded with a photo of this gorgeous 20-year-old woman confidently walking with her beautiful smile and perfect body. Her insulin pump suddenly became a fashion statement and she has encouraged others to “Show Your Pump.” Sierra has become an inspiration to 26 million people living in the United States who have diabetes and the nearly 80 million people who have pre-diabetes. She is proof that diabetes can be managed, the harmful effects can be reversed and diabetes does not stop people from living their dreams. The late Ron Santo, a Hall of Fame baseball player, had the disease and Chicago Bears Quarterback Jay Cutler has it.

I, too, am living proof that diabetes is manageable – although I’m no match to Sierra in terms of beauty, grace and charm. Better management has allowed me to overcome blindness and open-heart surgery and keep a mild case of kidney disease in check. I’m 64 years old and never felt better. 
I enjoy hearing stories about people overcoming obstacles such as diabetes, so I was bowled over by Sierra’s story about winning the Miss Idaho Pageant and I’m sure many other people were, too. Continue Reading »

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Jul 23 2014

The speaker’s road

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MALLOY

 
In Idaho

House Speaker Scott Bedke of Oakley will be doing more than watching the Election Day results in November. He’ll be keeping an eye on Republican winners, because his job depends on it.

Perhaps even more than the governor’s race, the state’s direction hinges on the outcome of the legislative races. Bedke, who won by a narrow margin in 2012, is no lock to win re-election. Critics – and there are plenty of them within the conservative wing of the GOP caucus – say he hasn’t done enough to bring opponents to his side.

“He’s leading with the D’s, and that’s no way to lead,” said one Republican House member.

For certain, Bedke could not have gotten through the implementation of a state-run health exchange without the help of Democrats.

“A majority of the Republican caucus voted against the exchange and the only way it passed was with the help of Democrats,” said Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens (Kootenai County). “That would not have happened under the previous speaker.”

Barbieri also opposes Bedke on Common Core education standards and fears that the speaker could push for Medicaid expansion. Barbieri isn’t alone with in his complaints about Bedke’s leadership. Earlier this month, the Idaho Statesman’s Dan Popkey wrote an excellent piece, talking to two of Bedke’s leading critics from the conservative side – Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane of Nampa and Caucus Chairman John Vander Woude of rural Ada County.

But complaints against Bedke and the more moderate “Otter” Republicans are empty without a viable conservative alternative, and that’s a problem. The bench is thin. Majority Leader Mike Moyle of Star has the resume, but he has told others that he is not interested in the speaker’s job because it would signify the beginning of the end of his legislative career. Rep. Tom Loertscher of Bone, the longtime chairman of the State Affairs Committee, also has the qualification. The question is whether he wants to stay on for another term or two. In Popkey’s article, Crane offered himself as a potential candidate for speaker. The question is whether he is ready for such an assignment. My guess is he is not.

Bedke, in many ways, has done a good job leading the House and a divided GOP caucus. He’s highly intelligent, engaged in the issues and has superior knowledge about budgeting. He’s also a superb communicator with the media, a trait not often found with Republicans.

Conservative members have a different view, as Popkey’s article outlined. Crane says that Bedke’s style has made the GOP divisions worse. Continue Reading »

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Jul 15 2014

A congressional success story

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malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Congress is doing a great job, and this is not a joke. Sure, there’s a lot of gridlock in Washington and on many issues, Congress can’t seem to agree on the color of the sky, let alone reach agreement on anything of substance.

But when it comes to diabetes awareness, and appropriating funds to cover research and prevention programs, it’s a different story. Funding for diabetes research, which was about $320 million in 1997, is now in the billions of dollars.

Support of this nature is significant to me, because I’ve had diabetes for more than 15 years and have experienced many of the complications. If we do nothing, it’s projected that one in three people will have diabetes by 2050. For a society, that is unacceptable.

None of this is lost on the members of Congress – specifically, three of the four members of Idaho’s congressional delegation. Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo and Rep. Mike Simpson clearly “get it” on this issue. They are not working alone; 345 House members and 42 senators are members of diabetes caucuses. They have a deep understanding of the issue and the role Congress can play in fighting this disease.

“I’m no fan of federal spending, or creating a bigger government, but there is an appropriate role when it comes to certain expenditures,” Risch said. The National Institute of Health is one of those areas in which government does have a proper funding role.

“I’m a big fan of the NIH,” Risch said. “They perform miracles – arresting cancer on kids who are living normal and productive lives. Twenty-five years ago, or even 20 years ago, they were destined to die at an early age.” Continue Reading »

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Jul 08 2014

Reasons for not going back

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MALLOY

 
In Idaho

University of Idaho officials, from the president on down, have made it clear that the Vandal football program is about making money. Going “back” to the Big Sky Conference is OK for other sports, but not for football.

“The financial consequences make it not very attractive,” Idaho’s new president, Chuck Staben, said in a recent article by the Idaho Statesman’s Brian Murphy. Athletic Director Rob Spear said in the same article that returning to the Big Sky level (Football Championship Subdivision) would result in Idaho cutting other sports.

Idaho has 975,000 good reasons for opening this year’s season at Florida, which speaks more about the intelligence of Florida than Idaho. If the Gators are foolish enough to pay nearly $1 million for a non-competitive game, then Idaho is smart enough to take the cash and hope the players don’t have too many leg cramps from the humidity.

But should college football and athletics in general, be all about money? Sports should be enhancing a young person’s educational experience, and not making athletes mere tools of revenue production. Football, especially, should be about traditional rivalries and road trips to neighboring schools. A perspective that puts money first is a warped perspective.

“It’s always a negative,” says Big Sky Conference Commissioner Doug Fullerton. “When you play money games, two things happen. You accumulate losses and you’re away from home. Those things are deadly to an athletic program.”

In Vandal country, it’s easy to blame former Coach Rob Akey’s undisciplined approach for the football program being on NCAA probation for failure to meet academic standards. But top officials should carry some of the blame for creating a “money-first” environment that promotes recruitment of athletes who run fast in the 40-yard dash, but can’t spell “cat.”

As Fullerton sees it, branding is at least as important as money. Montana, Montana State and Eastern Washington have strong brands from successful football programs. Those teams don’t win championships every year, but they are competitive and the programs are run well. Strong branding also promotes better recruiting.

“At Montana, you can’t buy a seat. I would ask the University of Idaho, is that happening on your campus? If the answer is no, then one of the problems may be how you are structuring your program. You are stretching too far to find the money,” Fullerton said. Continue Reading »

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Jun 30 2014

An Arkansas lesson

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malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Years ago, I bumped into my old boss on an elevator – former Arkansas Congressman Ed Bethune – and he was gushing about how nice it would be to live in Idaho, where Republicans receive such enthusiastic support.

At the time, he never saw such a level of support in Arkansas. Democrats held the kind of stronghold in Arkansas that Republicans have held for so long in Idaho. Bethune, who served three terms in the House of Representatives, was one of the few Republicans who managed to win elections in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

It’s no mystery why Democrats were so strong in Arkansas. Gov. Bill Clinton was the pride and joy of the Democratic Party and Hillary, as the first lady, was a rising star. Arguably, the most popular political figure at that time was then-Sen. David Pryor, who also was a former governor. Bethune decided to challenge Pryor for the Senate in 1984, and Pryor won convincingly.

At the time, Democrats seemed to have a dynasty that wouldn’t quit. Today, Arkansas is almost as red as Idaho. Republicans hold all four House seats, one Senate seat and majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. Arkansas also has voted consistently for Republicans in recent presidential elections.

So can Idaho turn from a Republican state to a Democratic state? It’s far too early to take that leap, but there may be at least slight movement in that direction – and especially if Idaho Republicans continue to stumble over themselves. Back in the day, Arkansas Democrats were a pretty arrogant bunch and they took elections for granted. Democratic candidates always talked the conservative game, but their voting records didn’t match their rhetoric. So over time, Republicans became the party of choice in Arkansas. The pattern for Idaho Republicans is much the same. They’re arrogant and tend to take elections for granted. And in the eyes of some, policy records of the likes of Gov. Butch Otter and Rep. Mike Simpson don’t live up to their conservative campaign themes.

A sea change in Idaho wouldn’t be easy for Idaho Democrats. For one thing, Democrats will never out-conservative the GOP in the Gem State. But Democrats could make headway talking about how Idaho’s leadership formula has led to Idaho being near last in education and first in low wages – issues that Sen. Russ Fulcher raised during his narrow loss to Otter in the governor’s race. Continue Reading »

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Jun 15 2014

An opening for Balukoff?

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MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate A.J. Balukoff won’t apply for membership into the tea party and there’s no chance of him being a featured speaker at an Idaho Freedom Foundation conference. But if wins the governor’s seat in November, the most conservative Idahoans could be the ones who will help put him there.

As Idaho Freedom Foundation Director Wayne Hoffman sees it, electing Balukoff over Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter makes sense from a conservative’s perspective. It may be one way to put the Republicans Party on track.

For instance, Hoffman says, if a Gov. Balukoff were to push for Medicaid expansion, it would be dead on arrival in a Republican-dominated Legislature. If Otter were to propose Medicaid expansion, lawmakers would look more closely at the potential cost savings for counties. A Balukoff administration that proposes repeal of sales-tax exemptions likely would go nowhere in the Legislature. If Otter proposed the same thing, legislators could view it as a sound way to raise needed revenue.

Conservatives probably wouldn’t like him any better than two recent failed candidates, Jerry Brady and Keith Allred. But Otter is no beacon for conservative principles either. Otter’s poor showing in last month’s Republican primary election, in which almost half the people voted for someone else, makes him prime for election defeat.

“Butch is vulnerable,” Hoffman said. “He won against a no-name and under-funded candidate with slightly more than 50 percent of the vote. You have to think that’s problematic.”

Losing Ada, Canyon and Kootenai counties also is problematic for the governor – along with a disastrous Republican convention over the weekend that failed to elect a party chairman or approve a platform. “We have hit bottom,” said Congressman Raul Labrador, one of Idaho’s leading conservatives.
The Democratic challenger, as with Hoffman, hears dissatisfaction in the conservative ranks.

Balukoff’s philosophy overall is far different from Sen. Russ Fulcher, who took 44 percent of the vote in the GOP primary. But much of Balukoff’s rhetoric is the same as Fulcher’s.

“A lot of people think Otter has been in for a long time and not a lot of show for his tenure,” Balukoff said. “People recognize that our education system is not where it should be and per capita income is at the bottom of the nation. They are upset with the lack of accountability and cronyism in the governor’s office. People are dissatisfied with the lack of leadership and are ready for a change.” Continue Reading »

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May 31 2014

Exemptions on the table

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MALLOY

 
In Idaho

The popular notion is that public schools, which receive just over $1.3 billion, is the largest item in the state’s budget.

But there’s one other item that eats up $1.7 billion, and it does nothing to help schools, roads and state services. That’s the amount it takes to maintain the 80 or so sales tax exemptions, many of which have been in place since the sales tax was implemented almost 50 years ago.

It’s the elephant in the room that politicians don’t want to talk about. Several lawmakers have tried to tackle the issue over the years and all have failed. Sales tax exemptions should be an issue in this year’s election campaign, but it’s more likely that they won’t in the interest of political self-preservation.

Imagine what could be done with another $1.7 billion. Idaho could double what it spends for the public schools and have money left over. It could be enough to take Idaho out the race for the bottom in just about every funding category for education. Maybe some of that money could be used to take our universities off the road to mediocrity. Or maybe the quality of lives of Idahoans could be better with improved roads and social services.

Of course, the odds of winning the lottery probably are better than eliminating the sales tax exemptions. There is a strong constituency for every one of those exemptions. And there are lobbyists lined up to protect all of them. It would be easier to push for increases in the income and sales taxes than ending the exemptions.

Eliminating exemptions would be tax increase on the business world and business operators don’t like higher taxes any more than Republican legislators. Given the choice between improving state services and company profits, business operators will favor the bottom line. That doesn’t make business operators the bad guys. In some cases, a sales tax exemption could make the difference between a business surviving, or going under. Continue Reading »

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May 18 2014

Firing time

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MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Early in his political career, Gov. Butch Otter would encourage people to view political campaigns as part of a job-application process.
 
As with any good applicant, he greeted voters as he would with a CEO of a company – a winning smile and firm handshake. He looked sharp, had a resume that didn’t quit, and was quick and confident with his responses. For good measure, he’d drown his face with after shave lotion – just to make sure nobody forgot who Butch Otter was.
 
That was 1986 and Otter was applying for Idaho’s lieutenant governor. He landed that job and two others he applied for during that 28-year stretch – 1st District congressman and governor of this great state. Now, he is applying for a third term in the state’s highest office.

At 72, Otter is much older than when he first applied in 1986. But he still looks and feels sharp, has that winning smile, firm handshake and is as friendly as your next-door neighbor – minus the layers of after shave lotion, thank goodness.
 
Otter has been an easy hire through the years. But for company CEOs, there comes a time when employees must be fired. It often comes when an employee does something egregious to embarrass the company. The CEOs in Otter’s life were able to overlook a couple of embarrassing moments – a drunken driving arrest and entry into a tight-jeans contest.
 
But the other night, Otter did something that no CEO could ignore. He was responsible for making Idaho the nation’s laughingstock by insisting that Harley Brown and Walt Bayes be part of the only televised gubernatorial debate of this primary campaign. Brown and Bayes were total embarrassments, as Otter, debate organizers and everybody else knew they would be.

Otter’s political strategy worked to perfection. Brown and Bayes were sideshow distractions and the candidates didn’t even get around to talking about education. The message sent to industries, educators and others considering moving to Idaho is that this is a state of bikers and backward hicks and that people such as Harley Brown and Walt Bayes are worthy of consideration for the state’s highest office. If the head of the Department of Commerce were responsible for creating this kind of spectacle, he’d be fired – as he should be.
 
As a native Idahoan, I’m offended. And as one of the CEOs of this state, I am holding Butch Otter responsible for what he did to my state.
 
I’m going to fire him on Tuesday.

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May 14 2014

Defining a party

Published by under Idaho,Malloy

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MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Could this election define the heart and soul of Idaho’s Republican Party? Congressman Raul Labrador makes a case for those high stakes, which led to his endorsement of Sen. Russ Fulcher for governor and a host of tea party candidates.

“We need a new vision for Idaho,” Labrador said. “We need strong leaders that understand that business as usual is what should not be happening in Idaho. We should look for fresh ideas and for new ways to make Idaho what I believe should be the gem of the whole United States, rather than be at the bottom of all the different things.”

Labrador calls for leaders to “show a vision of what Idaho will be five years from now, 10 years from now and 20 years from now.”

Cecil Andrus could not have said it better. Of course, the Fulcher-Labrador crowd offers far different solutions than Andrus, but there at least is agreement on what some of the problems are. Idaho is last in the nation in wages, and first in the relative numbers of workers receiving minimum wage. It’s at the bottom, or near the bottom, in just about all measures for education and as stories by the Statesman’s Dan Popkey and others have revealed, Gov. Butch Otter’s Project 60 has been more of a campaign slogan than a formula for economic recovery.

When Labrador talks about things like “heart and soul,” he can start with the visual contrast between the young turks and the old guard. Fulcher and Labrador are two politically ambitious men who are in the prime of their lives. Otter, the leader of the old guard, is an example of an aging politician who has been there, done that and never wants to leave.

Yes, Fulcher and Labrador are about as conservative as politicians get. But in Idaho, that’s not a bad thing. Idaho is a poor state, and there is not a high threshold for new programs and more taxes. Idaho will never be among the big spenders for education, whether it’s the public schools or higher education. Paying the minimum wage will continue to be challenging enough for businesses.

This new brand of conservatives want what almost all Idahoans want – quality schools, good roads, safe communities and quality state services. But people such as Fulcher and Labrador think there are smarter and more effective ways to manage state government and boost the economy. Fulcher talks about natural gas exploration in the Payette area and Labrador talks about Idaho becoming the next Silicon Valley.

Both say that for Idaho to move forward, old leaders have to go. “Butch Otter has done a lot of things to admire in office. But after 40 years in government, he has lost his way,” Labrador says.

Labrador, especially, is what Otter was in his younger days – a firebrand conservative who challenges the old ways of doing business. Fulcher is more measured in his approach, but he has a similar resolve.

The question that Republicans will answer on May 20th is whether they are ready for a new heart and soul.

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