Gov. Butch Otter is desperate to make us forget what has happened to Idahos schools and Idahos economy under his watch. To a crowd at the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, the governor declared that Idahos economy is in great shape.
A few days later, this headline came out in Idahos largest newspaper, Idaho Wages Lose Ground in 2012. The first line painted a bleak picture: Already among the lowest-paying states, Idaho wages fell even further behind in 2012, according to the Idaho Department of Labor.
We are now 46th in the nation for average wages.
This should surprise no one especially the governor. He already knew that Idaho leads the U.S. in the percentage of workers who earn minimum wage. Otter boasted about this fact months ago in letters urging companies to relocate to Idaho and take advantage of our low-wage working families.
Other economic measures suggest Idaho is not in great shape. For instance, the number of Idaho households taking food stamps has more than tripled from about 30,000 in 2003 to 100,000 today (thats 230,000 of our family members, friends and neighbors)more than half of those folks are children.
Otters grand assessment defies reason. But, during his speech to the Boise chamber, he revealed how his mind works: We expect to create an environment in state government and the state of Idaho that allows the private sector to work its magic, and its magic would be success.
There it is. The key difference between the governors fantasy world and the real world the rest of us inhabit: Magic.
Only a magical thinker would believe that low wages help communities thrive and young people succeed. Only faith in magic would allow our governor to look over the last 20 years of GOP control and declare success!
The governor will need powerful magic if he is to convince us that his recent embrace of education is a genuine priority.
Where was Otters opposition when GOP leaders gutted education budgets?
Where was Otter when 39 school districts dropped to four-day school weeks because they couldnt afford a fifth day?
Where was Otter for higher education that remains funded at 17% less than in 2008?
Where was Otter when state support for public schools dropped from $25,696 per classroom to $20,000?
Why did Otter put millions of dollars into rainy day funds instead of lifting Idaho from 49th in the nation for how much we invest in our students?
When we are up to our necks in water, isnt it time to admit its raining? Where would Idaho communities be if we relied on magic for flood control?
No, governor. Idaho is not in great shape. It didnt happen by accident and it didnt happen overnight. It wasnt even caused by magical means. You and your fellow GOP leaders prioritized handouts to Idahos wealthiest people and corporations. You told us our economy would grow and that our communities and families would prosper.
That didnt happen.
To fix Idahos situation, it will take new leaders with new vision, old wisdom and real plans for making Idaho prosperous and for creating the world-class education that our children need.
We dont believe in magic, Governor. And we dont believe in you.
Kenck is chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party.