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Posts tagged as “Butch Otter”

First take/Otter-Kasich

Cycle back to around, oh, 2001, and look at where C.L. "Butch" Otter and John Kasich were then - not just physically, but philosophically.

On his election to the U.S. House in 2000, Otter was described by the Almanac of American Politics as "not the social conservative his predecessor Helen Chenoweth was," but beyond that very much in the conservative old: favoring lower taxes, reduced regulation, a pro-business outlook.

At right about that time, Kasich was becoming George W. Bush's budget director, after a stretch as House budget committee chair. He and Otter had some similarities in personality, both exuding a certain sunniness and natural campaigning charm, and also ideological rigor of the same sort. Kasich had batted Bill Clinton with "cut spending first" demands in the 90s, ad became Budget chair "determined to reduce the size and scale of government." He and Otter would have been kindred spirits in D.C. Both were solidly loyalist in the conservative movement of the 90s and beyond.

With that in mind, Otter's endorsement this week of Kasich for president comes as no shock, but it does show how far the Republican Party has come. These days, Kasich is no longer on the front lines of the right; within the party, he's more often considered a "moderate" or worse, the "least conservative" of the Republican presidential field even when that field consisted of 16 or so candidates. And Otter has been challenged from the right, seriously, something that (as he has said) would have been simply inconceivable not so many years before.

On another level, the endorsement may also show something else: Personal loyalty, since at this point Kasich seems to have no practical path to the Republican nomination. - rs

Otter runs again

Not at all unexpected, in that there's a presumption that first-term governors will run again, and in that Otter has been raising money, campaign staff has been designated, people around him have been suggesting for a while now that he's going to run. All the indicators have pointed that way all along.

Still, after what he's been through the last three years, you have to wonder: Why?

Coffee wars

coffee

8th Street: Dawson & Taylor is at the green awning on the left/Randy Stapilus

This sounds minor and it is minor, probably, but there seems a need to weigh in on the Otter coffee battle. (As though Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter doesn't have enough battles to deal with at the moment.)

The story, which won't be recounted in full here (you can get a good rundown from Kevin Richert at the Idaho Statesman) essentially is that. Otter's current office, during Statehouse remodeling, is located in an old post office building at the corner of 8th and Bannock streets in downtown Boise. Periodically he slips out for a cup of coffee. Mostly, that has been at Dawson & Taylor, a Boise-owned coffee shop roughly catty-corner from his office. more recently, though, he has been frequenting its' across-the-street competitor, Thomas Hammer, which is based in Spokane. One day recently, Otter was accosted by Dawson's proprietor, who chewed him out, using some non-broadcastable language in the process, for not contributing to local business. (The proprietor later apologized.)

Putting aside the Miss Manners elements of this, there's something interesting about the two coffee shops. As it happens, I know them both fairly well, as a customer, and like them both. Both are friendly places that serve good coffee, and both have good free wi-fi (two key considerations). But as shops they're quite different.

Dawson's - which I've described as my Boise regional office when in town - is funky, informal, artsy, often noisy and seems to draw shifting groups of regulars. Hammer is quieter, simpler, more chrome-and-glass, more uptown, and draws a different clientele - though defining the difference is a subtle matter. There's some temptation to call Dawson's the Democratic coffee place and Hammer the Republican - especially after the Otter incident - but too many people I've seen in both break the types. I've had coffee with plenty of both kinds of party people (as well as non-party people) in both places, up to and including the last visit. But . . . there's a difference, somewhere, between Dawson's people and Hammer people. My guess is that people who have frequented both places can discern a difference, and there's a socio-political analysis here.

Maybe Otter can help. Maybe I need another couple cups of coffee.

ALSO There's this from the Boise Picayune, which extends the story a little further.

After-effects and Otter

When a few years back then-Governor Dirk Kempthorne battled with the Idaho Legislature and dragged it out to a record length, he seemed to emerge strengthened, and the legislature almost a bit chastened. That could still happen in this new squabble over transportation funding, which presently looks to extend the already second-longest-ever session out into May.

The prevailing view in Boise, though, seems to be that Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter isn't likely to get the best of it. That was view voiced across the spectrum and by a number of people who personally and/or philosophically like Otter. Mash their views, and you get a sense that he's picked the wrong battle at the wrong time, and that his legendary personal charm is failing him now.

The Idaho Statesman's Kevin Richert (in a post headlines "Why Butch Otter is losing the battle") offered this: "Otter is contriving a crisis. He has no other option. And he risks political backlash. He risks being seen as the guy who insists on raising taxes during a recession — and who insists on holding the Legislature captive, at a taxpayer cost of $30,000 a day."

Is there political subtext? Of course there is.

From Dennis Mansfield (who, it should be noted, years ago ran in a Republican primary against Otter): "I'm thinking that Governor Otter hoped for a whole heck of a better 'gig' than the one he got in 2006. It's like watching a photocopy of a photocopy of former Gov. Kempthorne's last couple of years in office...only earlier, isn't it? Ahh, the anguish.... Let it be known that I'm startin' to think that Butch positioned his old friend Brad Little as Lt. Gov, with a keen eye on a possible self-exit strategy for 2010...and the waters around him are being 'chummed'."

The question of whether Otter will seek a second term next year remains out. (An opt-out does feel a bit more likely now than, say, six months ago.)

Still. We asked one veteran Republican observer (who counts himself a long-time fan of Otter): Short of dropping out, is there political meaning if Otter loses this battle? He's highly unlikely to lose to a Democrat, right? The Republican agreed with that.

But what about a primary challenge? Suppose Otter got a challenge from a well-established, strong contender who could prospectively run a serious campaign - such as, to pull a name out of the air, House Majority Leader Mike Moyle. Could Otter be vulnerable? The Republican's take: Otter would probably win, but not definitely, and it could well be close.

In Idaho in recent years, few legislative battles have had much political impact in the elections that followed. This one just possibly might.

Trench warfare is joined

Ooo . . .kay. The last post, about the possibility of Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter doing some smackdown and drawing a hard line for the lawmakers - if he vetoes a stack of eight key budget bills - needs to be superseded. This morning, the vetoes were something he said he might do on Thursday. This afternoon, he did it - the bills are vetoed.

Legislative reaction seems to be as you might expect: They're not happy, and the operating majority in the House - which is the rampart against Otter's transportation request - sounds as if it is determined to hang in there. Which means, since there are no budget bills in operation, that both sides have locked into trench warfare.

Trench warfare is a matter of attrition, of patience, of holding out longer than the other guy. In this case, since the governor is a full timer who reports to the work every day whatever happens, and since the legislators are part-timers who have other work to do, the advantage seems to lie with the governor. That suggests that legislators are the ones to cave, except that they did that before, in the term of Governor Dirk Kempthorne, and they may loathe to let this become a pattern.

Do they have any options, any edge? That's unclear, but here's one thought (and don't count this as a prediction they'll try to do it).

The two houses of the legislature cannot adjourn, in effect, for more than three days at a time. But suppose they did that - meet in pro forma, quorum-satisfying, sessions briefly once every three days. They could keep on doing that for quite a while, especially since so many legislators live within an hour's drive or so of the statehouse. They could keep doing that for months.

In July, a new fiscal year begins, and agencies - all of them - will need an operating budget. Imagine a game of fiscal chicken running up to June 30 . . .

The mind boggles.

75-hour warning

otter

Otter at the veto announcement

If his initial statement didn't make matters totally clear, the answers to reporter questions certainly did: Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter is staring down the legislature, for "as long as it takes" to get transportation funding, that he feels adequate, in place.

That wasn't obvious from his prepared statement, which accompanied two bill vetoes, of House Bill 161 and House Bill 245, neither of them a really major piece of legislation. (One has to do with chains of notification in case of security breaches, and other establishing a new Parents as Teachers program.)

Later on, though, he pointed to a stack of eight bills on his desk - budget bills - and made clear that he was prepared to do to them what he had done to this morning's two, if he and legislators didn't come to agreement. Budgets are the one thing the Idaho Legislature are obliged to wrap up before they can adjourn, and that threat to veto amounted to a threat to just keep the legislature there . . . for a while.

He corrected a reporter to make the point that the legislators were "friends," but also pointedly mentioned that the Idaho Senate (which has been relatively agreeable to his proposals) has been "responsible," while leaving out comparable mention of the Idaho House.

The budget bills have to be acted upon by the governor by mid-afternoon on Thursday. Otter said explicitly that if he and legislators don't reach agreement, they'll be vetoed. And if the legislators pass something new and just adjourn? He would be amenable to a special session, at which he can set the subjects available for discussion - which would be transportation funding. But suppose the legislators still refused to pass a bill? At that point, Otter broke new ground: He would not rule out calling them back, and back again, and again, until they do.

"Some legislators there need to be reminded there are three branches of government," he said.

None of this comes out of nowhere. Otter has been signaling since last year his seriousness about transportation funding, and has been dropping hints, with gradually diminished subtlety, that he would press seriously on this issue. But he seems, up to now, to have been hoping that giving legislators a little maneuver room, rather than backing them into a corner, might be the way to achieve results. That's over. They - or more precisely, the Idaho House, which is the locus of opposition to added transportation funding - are being pressed. They now seem positioned more probably for a long-term waiting game, rather than a quick adjournment.

"I'm prepared to stay as long as I have to, to get responsible legislation," Otter said.

Full-time governors have the advantage over part-time legislators in such cases, as everyone learned in 2003, when the longest-ever legislation session in Idaho history was held, under nearly identical circumstances. Today, you could get even money on this year's session running even longer than that one. (more…)

The fork in the outlet

Otter

Butch Otter

Title of this post refers, as viewers of "Lost" may recognize, is the nickname assigned by its producers to the upcoming season-ending big deal. It also may apply to the immediate situation at the Idaho Statehouse.

Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter allowed today as how he's frustrated by the legislature, and he has ample reason. (And this week's are far from his first frustrations.) As the Idaho Statesman pointed out, "On Thursday alone, various parts of the Legislature rejected some of his plans on transportation funding, and on spending federal stimulus money."

There is the possibility, albeit a thin one, that the legislature could wrap up business by the end of next week. Another week or even two would be a better bet. But they could be in session a lot longer, because Otter could keep them there. A key quote from the governor: "All you've got to do is look back, if you've got any historical memory. There's lots of things the governor can do."

You don't have to reach back especially far, either, just to 2003. That year, the legislature kept rejecting transportation plans offered by Governor Dirk Kempthorne (does this sound familiar?). Kempthorne couldn't force them to pass them. But he could veto budget bills, as he did in an eight-pack one memorable day, and budget resolution is the one significant thing the legislature has to do before leaving town. The two sides endured an angry standoff for weeks, until after 118 days on May 3, the legislators finally caved.

Otter could do something similar. Its not something anyone really wants. But his comments today leave no doubt: It's on the table. Message to legislators: Don't buy any non-refundable plane tickets any time soon.

“Still at a funding crisis in transportation”

Probably shouldn't have been a big surprise, but the reports indicate that the core transportation strategic planners - mainly out of the office of Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter - really were thrown by the House rejection today of his proposed gas tax increase. Evidently, a number of House members were surprised too.

The debate was fairly closely split between the two sides but the vote wasn't close, at 27-43, with Democrats making some of the strongest anti-tax arguments. (Ponder that a moment: small-l libertarian Otter pushing a tax increase that the Democrats said was unaffordable.) Republican leadership couldn't push it through.

Representative Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, was quoted as saying, “I’ll continue to work with the governor’s office to see if there’s another proposal that would be acceptable, because the problem is not going to go away." It isn't. But keep watch and see if, in the days ahead, there are attempts to re-frame it - maybe as indicating that road spending, apart from what's already being paid for, is something that might be shifted toward the back burner.

Spending it

Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter has released his proposal on what to do with the federal stimulus money. There's nothing especially stunning in it - even the convergence with Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna's proposed school cuts seems of a piece.

He takes it to the legislature tomorrow, at which point lawmakers may (may) start cranking back up to speed.

What you get most out of the proposal is how little discretion the states really have in spending the money. The billions requested by state agencies, local governments and others - the non-state requests alone ran to $5.6 billion - were so far beyond what could be gotten as to be, maybe, a little sad. Guess you can't blame them for asking, but . . .

Quite a committee

The federal stimulus money has been politicized in various ways around the country; among Republican governors, there's been talk of not accepting it (though all or nearly all probably will). Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter, never a fan of the feds or federal money, has engaged in a little of that. But his first practical response so far has been impressive: An advisory committee on stimulus spending that isn't just an advisory committee, because of who is on it - three former governors plus four former state budget directors, the overall panel split evenly between the parties.

The governors are Democrats Cecil Andrus and John Evans and Republican Phil Batt.

That (together with the budget office expertise) make up a classy combination. And it's not your usual advisory committee, because whatever this one comes up with will be very hard to casually dismiss.

Transportation confusion

Jeff Kropf

Since the advent of live blogging, we've been a little sad this medium wasn't available years ago; it would long have been a great way to cover and follow, for example, state legislative meetings. Fortunately, there was some live blogging of today's Idaho House Transportation Committee meeting, which was giving initial consideration to a string of road bills, five of them key measures proposed by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter.

A subsequent news story, even if well written, may not give the flavor of what happened here as well as some of the real-time takes on what happened. Some excepts from an Idaho Statesman live blog on the meeting (in chronological order, reversed from the original):

1:42 p.m. — Jason Kreizenbeck, Gov. Butch Otter's chief of staff, is presenting an overview of all five bills. Kreizenbeck said these bills are to generate additional revenue to maintain and improve Idaho's roads and bridges.

1:46 p.m. — Kreizenbeck is looking for some help from the Idaho Transportation Department, but none seems to be coming.

1:50 p.m. — Hard to say this is going well. Committee members seem stumped by the bills, which seem to be lacking some pivotal information. Kreizenbeck and committee chairwoman JoAnn Wood have struggled to connect on information as well.

1:55 p.m. — [Representative Phil] Hart wants to know what the money going into a new account created by the Gov. is going to be used for. Pam Lowe, director of the Idaho Transportation Department, said the money will be used to renovation and restoration.

2:00 p.m. — Wood got a jab in saying that she has not had time to look at the bills. The bills did not get to the Legislature until late Monday afternoon.

2:02 p.m. — It is hard to hear in the room as legislators are struggling to hear questions. "I think the amount of people here is soaking up the sound," Wood said.

2:03 p.m. — There is a lot of confusion, particularly about financial impact of the proposals, in the room.

2:19 p.m. — JoAnn Wood expressed concern about what raising the fees on the heaviest trucks would mean, especially since they pay such a high rate now.

The committee voted to print the bills, though some of the committee members made a point of indicating that didn't necessarily mean they would vote to move them any further. As the committee chair, JoAn Wood, remarked at 2:31 p.m.: "We do have a lot of work left in front of us."

Slice and cut

Butch Otter

C.L. "Butch" Otter

C.L. "Butch" Otter, Idaho's governor, has long been a cut-taxes-less-government kinda guy, but some of his recent statements suggested that he might try to find ways in the next year's state budget to avoid really massive, overwhelming cuts. And he may well have tried. But great big cuts are the hallmark of what he has proposed to the Idaho Legislature today.

Consider this slice from early in the speech:

The budget recommendation you received today includes a General Fund allocation for public schools that is about 5-and-one-third percent less than this year’s appropriation. However, the $1 billion, 425 million I’m proposing for K-through-12 education next year still represents almost half our total General Fund budget.

And the fact is that my proposed public schools budget is reduced FAR less than I’m recommending for other state agencies. For example, my General Fund budget proposal for Health and Welfare is down 71⁄2 percent. Higher education is down almost 10 percent; the departments of Correction and Water Resources each are down almost 12 percent. The Department of Agriculture recommendation is down more than 31 percent, Commerce more than 51 percent, and Parks and Recreation almost 56 percent.

He also declined to have any truck with the state's rainy day funds; there may be, he suggested, a lot of rainy days.

As conservative as the Idaho Legislature is, there may be some dispute about some of this.

From there, he spoke of Project 60, a broad-based effort to increase Idaho's economic output, "nurturing a new generation of entrepreneurial giants. We want to encourage and create a climate that enables visionaries like the Simplots, Albertsons and Morrisons of yesterday – and like the Parkinsons, Hagadones, Vandersloots and Sayers of our own generation – to create more jobs and brighter futures for Idaho families and communities." (more…)