Our View: Fulcher will need to present solutions

November 26, 2013 

fulcher, otter, governor, candidate, candidacy, unseat, republic

Just a month after announcing that he would hold an exploratory campaign, Sen. Russ Fulcher formally kicked off a run for governor Saturday, with new video ads, logos and a gubernatorial website, russfulcher.com.

KATHERINE JONES — kjones@idahostatesman.com

Not counting today, Sen. Russ Fulcher has 175 days to convince Idaho Republicans to dump a well-funded Gov. Butch Otter in next May’s primary if and when the governor announces he is running.

Fulcher, who entered the race Saturday, struck some nice chords with conservatives by going after the easy target — Obamacare. We’re anxious to learn where he wants to take the state and how he will handle the multitude of challenges.

Yes, he has served on JFAC — the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee — and as majority caucus leader he is no stranger to the fiscal challenges facing the state. But we need to know where the contrast is between Otter and Fulcher on all of the issues, not just the issue of dealing with federal health care reforms in Idaho. The problems of today — a troubled website and U-turns on what policies will be allowed — could be cleared up by May.

Fulcher has made it clear Otter was in error by working with the federal government to establish an Idaho health insurance exchange, now known as Your Health Idaho. We’ll call that Option A. Fulcher said last spring that Idaho would have been better off to accept Option B — just allow the federal government to administer a plan in Idaho.

Why? Since Idaho has accepted federal money to establish its own exchange, it has bought into the program and doesn’t have much recourse. Fulcher believes that, if Idaho had just accepted the federal template for the Affordable Care Act, the state would have retained leverage to fight specific parts that it found unworkable or unacceptable.

We have heard him say Otter and the establishment Republicans have too often “acquiesced” to federal incursions into state government. Now, we need to know how Fulcher will get us out of the health care reform situation we are in. If he is against expanding Medicaid, what will be his plan for making health care available to the people who would otherwise have benefitted from it, and whose expenses, in theory, would be paid for by the federal government instead of the state?

“I told you so” statements about the ACA and just saying “no” to Medicaid expansion need to be followed up with alternative solutions.

Otter, for better or worse, is on record on every conceivable campaign issue because the buck has been stopping at his desk for seven years. For instance, regarding education reforms and funding it, Otter created a bipartisan task force with instructions to create a plan for success without regard to cost. Though there are about 350 million reasons (dollars) for detractors to object to it, there is a plan with across-the-board support. Otter has come out in favor of Common Core/Idaho Core Standards to create better prepared students who will be able to succeed in careers and higher education. Fulcher has been critical of Common Core. He is suspicious of federal influence and control latent in those standards. Well, then, senator, what is your plan?

Both Otter and Fulcher need to flesh out their views on how they would find funding for needed transportation improvements (increased gas taxes or what?) and prison reforms, now that it appears Correction Corporation of America is not going to be in the prison management picture. He and any other candidates need to spell out specifically how they are going to manage and juggle Idaho’s limited funding and make progress on these four key points: education reforms, transportation funding, the prison situation and the looming question of Medicaid expansion.

We look forward to an exchange of ideas coming from these two Republican candidates and any others who enter the race before or after the primary.

“Our View” is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@idahostatesman.com.

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