William L. Spence
February 25, 2010
Lewiston Morning Tribune
BOISE - Idaho Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter unveiled his inner hippie Wednesday, saying he just wants a little peace, love and happiness.
Speaking at an annual Idaho Press Club event, Otter said he "bristles" when editorial writers or reporters mischaracterize his decisions. They imply he takes personal satisfaction from cutting government, he said, when all he's trying to do is balance the budget.
"I don't have an option. Article VII, Section 11 of the Idaho Constitution says we can't spend more than we bring in," he said. "Just once instead of the headlines 'Otter cuts grade schools' or 'Otter cuts education,' I'd like to see the headline 'Otter obeys constitution.'"
Newspapers around the state have slammed Otter's proposal to phase out state support for Idaho Public Television, the Department of Parks and Recreation and various other commissions, as well as his suggestion public schools should share in the most recent midyear holdback.
They've portrayed the cuts "like something I wanted to do, that I couldn't wait for it to happen," he said. "But Otter doesn't want to cut. Because of the revenues we have and the expenses we have, I'm required to cut."
Asked what type of relationship he wants with the media, Otter said he'd "like to see some compassion. This is a tough, tough position to be in. I have to pick and choose, and when I made choices I have to live with them. It's not fun."
While the recession and declining state revenues have kept him from pursuing some of the policy initiatives he'd hoped to get to in his first term, Otter said his life experiences have prepared him to handle the situation.
Growing up in a poor family, struggling to go to college, making tough choices as a manager for the J.R. Simplot Co., prioritizing and defending those choices, making decisions in Congress - all those experiences "prepared me for this time," Otter said. "If I'd had to choose the same Cabinet for a downturn instead of a stagnant government process, I'd choose the same people."
Asked about those policy initiatives he wasn't able to get to, he mentioned the grocery tax credit and his plans to set aside $100 million for the Opportunity Scholarship program. He also would have liked to raise more money for transportation maintenance, possibly by increasing the gas tax while lowering the sales tax, so taxpayers didn't have to pay more.
As for what he'd hoped would be the hallmark of his first term, before the recession got in the way, Otter had a one-word response: "Happiness."
He later described the governorship as "the best job I've ever had" and indicated he would announce his candidacy for a second term sometime in the next few weeks.
What he's waiting for?
"Peace," Otter said. "I didn't want to get the race involved in all the noise and activity that's going on at the Legislature. I wanted it to kind of mellow out before I announced. I think we're getting there."
Spence may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2274.
Originally posted at http://www.lmtribune.com/story/northwest/504676/
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