Friday, January 15, 2010

President's Editorial

Putnam photo
State of the State: It Could Be A Lot Worse
by Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley

Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter presented the annual State of the State speech this week and was roundly attacked by Democrats, newspaper editors and other pundits for lack of foresight, changing his political stripes and being opportunistic and overzealous for suggesting cutbacks to state agencies and schools.

However, in our view putting all the political grandstanding aside, the Governor delivered a pragmatic, forward-looking speech. He wants Idaho residents to understand that things are probably going to get worse before they get better, but things will get better.

Gov. Otter was spot on in his assertions that the core values of Idaho residents are to remain independent, in control of their money, and that government should have a limited but well-defined role in their lives.

Taking a stand not to raisetaxes in spite of the fact that state revenues are down 19 percent over the past two fiscal years is commendable. We agree this is no time to raise taxes on cash-strapped Idaho residents, and we agree that tax increases put in place to shore up the state budget could stall economic recovery.

That leaves no alternatives other than cutbacks. Just like any family or private business out there, when revenue streams dry up, belts must be tightened. We are all concerned about adequately funding public schools and higher education. However, we must clearly understand that the school system is the largest bureaucracy inside state government, and that federal stimulus and rainy day accounts have been used to hold the K-12 school system harmless.

To date, other state agencies and services have taken the brunt of state budget cuts and holdbacks. It will be unpleasant but our schools are going to have to adapt and share some of the pain this year. Parents of school-age children must realize that changes are coming and it’s going to fall on them to pick up the slack and get more involved in their children’s education.

In a recent press release, Idaho Senate Pro Tem Bob Geddes said “. . . it’s purely the fiscal discipline of previous legislative sessions and the strong leadership of Gov. Otter that has prevented Idaho from suffering the horrendous cuts to education budgets that have befallen nearly every other state in the union.”

That’s a good way to keep things in perspective. Maintaining that fiscal discipline is more important today than it ever has been when we’re dealing with--as the governor said in his speech-- the people’s money.

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