Adam’s Blog

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

Governor Otter Hopes We Forget

Posted by Adam Graham on May 5, 2009

The endless legislative session continues into its 113th Day. Members are getting testy and I’d say that its understandable, this isn’t what they signed up for and the session is dragging on due to the incredible stubborness of the Governor and his refusal to accept the BIllion Dollars Idaho’s legislature has appropriated this year for roads as their last say. He desperately wants to raise our taxes. This is like back during the Grocery Tax debate when the governor didn’t want to sign a bill that didn’t have the effect of raising taxes on the middle class in order to finance a tax cut for the poor.

Does the Governor believe he opposed far too many tax increases as a principled young man and now needs to make up for it by taxing the heck out of  his in twilight years? One has to wonder.

What do we say of Governor Otter’s latest plan?

Gov. Butch Otter said he still wants a gas tax increase, but he’s also willing to accept the interim committee to study transportation funding that House GOP leaders have proposed. He said his “counter offer” to House leaders is a delayed, 3-cent per gallon increase on July 1, 2011 and another 3-cent hike on July 1, 2012, which combined with the already-offered ethanol and DMV fees bill, would bring the package up to $75 million in new revenue. “I have seen well-intended and well-meaning people work on interim committees,” Otter said, but often, “there was no result, and there was nothing to go forward. I believe having the 3-and-3 delayed implementation bill this day, then, would motivate that interim committee to attend to its work and to be as creative and come up with the real solution.” If the committee finds a better solution than the delayed gas tax, Otter said he’d consider it, but he wants the tax approved now for planning purposes for transportation work. “We will continue to work, we will continue to try to go forward on the transportation funding, because it is so very important,” Otter said. “We need certainty, and we need the $75 million in revenue.”

Otter offers the legislature a chance to avoid increasing taxes IN the recession by waiting until AFTER the recession. To imagine that the recession will not have reached a technical, if not felt end by 2011 would be incredibly pessimistic, so in essence, if the House Republicans agree to Otter’s proposal, they can go home and say they didn’t raise taxes in the recession. Better yet, voters won’t be hit by the tax increase until 2011, a year after the vote. The gas tax increase tends to be the easiest tax in the world to hide because it’s not even shown on the receipt how much you’re paying in tax. A 3 cent variance can happen in a week easily, so the 3 cent increase gets slipped into the ebb and flow of gas prices. 

And the interim committee? As proposed by the House, it would be an opportunity to find money to fund transportation. Under Otter, it’s something that compromising legislators can go back and tell their constituents will prevent the tax increase, but in reality, Governor Otter, for whatever reason, wants a tax increase, and has shown no interest in alternatives. If Governor Otter was interested in alternatives, his man in the Senate, John McGee (R-10) wouldn’t have bottled up H0226, an innovative transportation funding proposal that could provide tens of millions of dollars for Idaho roads without raising taxes. If Governor Otter has the gas tax increase, he’s going to reject any other funding mechanism that eliminates it.

But what Governor Otter offers the Idaho House is a chance to try and pull the wool over the eyes of Idaho voters and everything will be fine. If this were 2003 with the Sales Tax increase, Otter would be right. However, it’s not 2003. The mood is far different and far less forgiving for recalcitrant politicians.

Don’t be fooled by the size of Tea Party II. All that proved was that most conservatives aren’t professional protest warriors. Boise’s big tea party on April 15 is not the only reason the legislature is in session. If I’m from Sandpoint or St. Marie’s, I really don’t care what’s going on in Boise. These members of the State House are responding to the voices of their people. And as Representatives they’re doing their job, as much as it may frustrate the Governor.

As for State Senators, all I have to say is that many of these fellows ought to sincerly pray that Closed Primaries aren’t the law come 2010 or I see big-time turnover that will make your head swim.

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