Printed on: November 11, 2012
Saving Otter's legacy
Think about the men Idahoans have elected to lead them the past 50 years. Each left the governor's office with at least one significant achievement upon which to hang his hat.
Republican Bob Smylie introduced the sales tax. Republican Don Samuelson, considered the standard by which Idaho gubernatorial ineptitude is measured, managed to get Boise State included in the university system.
Democrat Cecil Andrus' long list of achievements includes the local planning act and state funding for kindergarten. Democrat John Evans fought for tax increase to fund vital public services. Republican Phil Batt forged a nuclear waste settlement with the feds. Republican Dirk Kempthorne gave Idahoans a massive road-building project. And Republican James Risch, in just seven months on the job, removed school funding from the property tax and reorganized the Department of Health and Welfare.
What about Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter? What does he have to show for six years on the job? If your answer is, "not much," you'd be correct.
Luckily for Otter, he has time to get this train back on the tracks. Unhappily for the governor, doing so will require steps he has to this point assiduously avoided taking.
Otter needs to issue an executive order establishing a private, non-profit health care exchange and give every Idaho property owner a tax break by pushing for an expansion of the Medicaid program. The GOP's Obamacare repeal fantasy ended with the president's re-election and the U.S. Senate remaining under Democratic control. Obamacare is the law of the land. It's time for Idaho, led by Otter, to begin making up for lost time.
Otter is in a unique position to forge a lasting and meaningful compromise on education reform. He needs to address the sorry fact that women make less than men for doing roughly the same jobs in his cabinet and push legislative leaders to get serious about cleaning up state government. The tax dodgers, per diem cheaters, conflict of interest bill killers and politically motivated firings have shaken Idahoans' faith in representative government. It's past time to restore integrity to our political process.
All this will require a more energized effort than Otter displayed in his tepid defense of the Luna laws. And just as importantly, the governor will need to check his ideology at the door. We understand it cannot feel good for a libertarian-leaning Republican to be staring down a reality that says his legacy depends upon a willingness to help implement Obamacare and play nice with the Idaho Education Association.
But the election is over. The people have spoken. Otter has a choice: Get going or prepare for a place down there in Samuelson territory.
Let's hope he's up to it, for our sake and for his.