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Posts tagged as “Butch Otter”

“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…)

On the radio

KLIX

A quick programming note: On Monday mornings during the legislative session, I'll be talking on KLIX-AM radio in Twin Falls. That started this morning at about 8:05 (Mountain), for 15 minutes or so, and the plan is to continue that till the legislators go home.

Talked this morning on the budget mess, the challenges Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter and the legislature have (though they seem to coming closer to facing them together) and related subjects. Podcasts are available.