Adam’s Blog

That’s my thing, keepin’ the faith, baby. –Joe Friday

Governorship in the Balance

Posted by Adam Graham on April 23, 2009

The events of the past few days have been stunning. Governor Butch Otter issued 35 vetoes of House legislation, 33 of which were vetoes of appropriations bills meant to keep the legislature in town to pass his vision of transportation funding.

After Otter vetoed eight bills to show the legislature he meant business, the State Senate amended a House bill removing the ethanol exemption and amended it to raise gas taxes six cents a gallon and raised registeration fees. The House sent a clear message by voting 55-15 to kill the bill, and then Otter issued his 25 vetoes.

Speaker Lawrence Denney (R-9) was trying to make progress and thought he had shot before Otter vetoed 25 more bills. Denny says Otter’s not helping:

“He’s setting in concrete the votes that were maybe – I mean, they’re not happy,” Denney said. “Truly yesterday we thought we had a way forward,” he said, involving the removal of the ethanol exemption, raising DMV fees, “and possibly a fuel tax with an economic trigger. We were starting to shop that around when he vetoed those bills – and the talk stopped. I would hope that he wouldn’t veto any more bills, and that we can start talking again.”

Otter has made his governorship around taking an all or nothing approach to transportation-and getting nothing.  Otter could have had $68 million for transportation had he accepted it back in 2008. Now, in the midst of the recession, Otter can’t even get that. He could have, however, had $13.2 million annually from getting rid of the Ethanol exemption, but his Senate allies had to foul up the bill by loading it up with a gas tax increase three times the amount that came closest to passing in the House.

Governor Otter this past week has shown all the diplomacy and tact of a run-away freight train this week. In addition, he has failed to grasp the times in which he’s governing. If there were an Out of Touch magazine, Otter would be the cover boy.

I was there when Bryan Fischer asked the crowd at the Boise Tea Party whether they consented to have their gas taxes increased and the “no” was resounding. The public isn’t in the mood for a tax increase, particularly on the order of what Otter is asking for.

Melissa Clouthier had a piece warning that complacent Republicans had a lot to fear from tea parties in terms of primary challenges. It seems to me that Governor Otter is a prime example. He’s stumbled into a lose-lose situation.

If the legislature raises taxes in opposition to what is the popular will, particularly in the Republican Primary, Butch Otter will almost certainly face a stiff challenge. Even a total unknown could probably get 30% of the vote.

What if Otter fails, the Senate caves into the house and budgets are passed over the Governor’s veto without transportation funding? Simply, put, Butch Otter will be a failed governor. He’s made the focus of his administration: transportation and through his overbearing tactics, he’ll have gotten next to nothing and far less than he could have gotten with a better temperment.

Democrats have an opportunity in 2010 if they could find a good candidate, but they really don’t have anybody.  When they run the relic like Larry LaRocco in two consecutive elections, you know there’s just not much on the old bench.  A quick inventory of Democrats shows they have state legislators, most of which could not be elected outside of their own districts or who are too moderate (Mary Lou Shepherd, Branden Durst) to gain the favor of the Sun Valley-North End Democratic establishment. There’s Mayor Dave Bieter who really has no future outside of the City of Boise, and then Democrats are left with a few rural county commissioners and local officeholders scattered throughout the state, and not a whole lot else.

So, Otter’s governship will be tested in the Republican Primary. It’ll be close, and if Closed Primaries carry the day prior to the 2010 Primaries, Butch Otter will see his public career go down in inglorious defeat.

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One Response to “Governorship in the Balance”

  1. Vanderbilt said

    You’re forgetting Roger Chase. Mayor of Pocatello. Democrat.

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