Summary of the Idaho State of the State Address
By Stateline Staff
Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R) used his combined state of the state and budget address on Jan. 11 to push a "responsibly conservative" spending plan based on no growth in tax revenue, even though the state's economist has indicated growth is a possibility in fiscal 2011.
Otter called on the majority-Republican Legislature to use $241 million from reserve accounts to cover shortfalls in the current budget year, as well as projected gaps in the coming one, and to approve another $40 million cut that would include funds for K-12 schools, which had been spared from an earlier round of cuts this fiscal year. Stressing the need for a streamlined government, he said he would push for the elimination of 400 state positions, most of them vacant.
Funding for roads — the issue that has put Otter at odds with legislative leaders in his own party for two years — received only a passing mention, as the governor said it would be a topic of ongoing discussion. Lt. Gov. Brad Little (R) is leading a task force examining long-term road-funding possibilities after lawmakers last year rejected Otter's proposal to raise the gas tax.
But Otter ruled out raising taxes this year. "It is not our place to impose an additional economic burden on the people of Idaho who are already struggling, or to put a damper on our economic recovery," he said. In fact, the governor said he wanted to continue a scheduled increase in a tax credit that allows Idahoans to collect rebates on the sales taxes they pay when they buy groceries.
Otter also levied harsh criticism at the federal government, particularly over health care reform efforts that he said "could add as much as half a billion dollars to Medicaid costs in Idaho" and force severe cuts across other areas of state government, such as corrections.