Monday, January 9, 2017

Just in from the Statehouse

Otter Delivers State of State Address

Boise--Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter kicked off the 2017 legislative session with his annual State of the State speech this afternoon at the Statehouse.

The third-term governor began the speech talking about Idaho successes.

"Our finances are secure. Revenue is exceeding expectations. Economic growth is outpacing the overall growth of government, and our own operations are more transparent and efficient than ever.
More of our people are working than at any time in our history. And wages are rising, slowly but surely, along with employer demand for more skilled workers. Meeting that demand is among our most serious challenges, but we are facing it head on. And I know you share my commitment to finding Idaho-based solutions rather than waiting for our national government’s dysfunction to get turned around," said Otter.

He'll ask lawmakers for $58 million for the teacher-pay raise program known as the Career Ladder, and also has plans for a Higher Education Task Force to improve higher education graduation rates in Idaho. With the State economy strong, the Governor talked about tax relief.

"It’s no surprise that we all want tax relief. For some it’s the top priority of this legislative session. But I would remind you that together we have reduced the tax burden on our citizens during my tenure by about $1 billion. And you soon will have legislation before you to cut the base tax rate for unemployment insurance paid by Idaho employers by 6.3 percent this year. That’s $46 million in tax relief in the coming year alone, and $115 million over three years," said Otter.

Otter says he expects a better relationship with the federal government and management of federal lands.

"For years now, we in the West have been frustrated by the increasing imposition of the federal government’s will over our livelihoods and quality of life. Regulatory bureaucracies and entrenched interests have become practiced at reaching far beyond the letter of such laws as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act to essentially nullify the commonsense stewardship of states and local jurisdictions," said Governor Otter.

Otter says he's optimistic that President-elect Trump and his team will work to ensure that meaningful reforms are implemented to keep such agencies as the EPA, the BLM, the Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in check.

"Their focus must be shifted to working more collaboratively with states to develop national policies that are flexible enough to accommodate local needs and realities. I recently provided the new administration with some detailed advice for improving the federal approach to such issues as protecting sage-grouse and their habitat, delisting grizzly bears, and developing needed energy infrastructure like the Gateway West electrical transmission project in southern Idaho," said Otter.

Otter says he hopes his advice won't not fall on deaf ears, because the state has done a good job of managing and protecting state natural resources.

"Our own citizens and communities have the civic virtue and proven know-how to ensure our lands and resources are responsibly used for the long-term economic and recreational opportunities they can provide. I'm not advocating for the State to take over the more-than 60 percent of Idaho owned by the federal government. But we should continue expanding on the efforts we’ve made so far to realize the potential of such Idaho values as active management and local stewardship. Our initiative to improve water sustainability is a great example of how Idaho can do very well caring for our own needs without punitive federal oversight," said the Governor.

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