Monday, January 9, 2012

Citizens Critique Otter's Annual Address to Legislators

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2012 at 4:02 PM

In anticipation of today's State of the State message from Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, Citydesk has been listening to citizens, measuring their hopes, expectations and, yes, fears of what may come out of the 2012 Idaho Legislature.

Shortly after Otter finished his afternoon address, in which he proposed a small increase for K-12 public education spending, $60 million for rainy day funds, $41 million for one-time bonuses for state workers, and $45 million in tax relief, we began hearing from our citizen commentators, including a caregiver, a small-business owner, a river guide, a computer programmer and a former inmate who now is a manager of a Boise business.

Scott Deseelhorst, who owns Snake River Winery with his wife, Susan, initially told us he wanted to hear more specifics from the governor but he wasn't thrilled with the idea of government workers getting lump sums of cash.

"Everybody I talked to is tired of government employees. They're doing pretty well in these hard economic times," said Deseelhorst. "Why is he rewarding the public employees? I don't understand how they would ever be incentivized. What is he actually rewarding them for?"

Warren Bussey, who has spent time at the Idaho Department of Correction prison but now manages a floral delivery service in Boise, said he supported the bonuses for state employees.

"I love it for teachers because they've been underpaid forever," said Bussey. "This is a very positive time for Otter because we have a [budget] surplus right now. I also think it's good that he expressed support for education."

Jackie Nefzger, who has run MacKay Wilderness Trips with her partner since 1991, said she was frustrated by Otter's lack of focus on Idaho's tourism.

"There is no reference to Idaho tourism industries to be found in the governor's Project 60. Even though he acknowledged Idaho and the country are becoming more of a service society, he ignores those of us who serve visitors to our great state," she said. "In 2008, Idaho's tourist industry took in $3.4 billion in revenues, employed 26,000 Idahoans and contributed $499.7 million local, state and federal taxes."

Lea Bowman, a social worker who provides hospice care, wasn't happy because Otter made little mention of social services.

"First, I am shocked he is talking about tax relief," said Bowman. "We are already struggling with an immensely tight budget and we're going to make it even tighter? I guess this simple fact is what lays out the rest of the bullshit—when our budget is starved because we don't have revenue, of course we will have to resort to sub-standards in education, like online and distance learning, and rely on private industry to boost the public sector. Ugh."

Earl Mitchell, a 28-year-old computer programmer who recently moved back to Boise, liked a number of things about Otter's address.

"I'm surprised and impressed by the tone of the address," said Mitchell. "He seems to have a firm handle on what makes Idaho a wonderful place to live: its people. He appears to have a philosophically informed resolve in two critical avenues that have eluded many other state governments: the limitations of what a government realistically can and cannot accomplish, and the requisite friction between government bodies at the state and federal levels."

Citydesk will continue to solicit more feedback from citizens throughout the legislative session.

But for now ... what did YOU think of the governor's State of the State?

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