The Idaho Statesman's endorsement of Gov. Butch Otter (April 20) is surprising, given the fact that the governor's eight years in office have been plagued by scandal, absence of leadership and failed initiatives.
I entered this race largely because the governor decided to implement Obamacare via the creation of a federal insurance exchange operated by state employees. In doing so, Idaho became the only state with a Republican governor and a Republican Legislature to voluntarily implement Obamacare. Gov. Otter claims this was a conservative move. It was not. Every conservative group in the country opposes the governor's action.
Why, then, did the exchange win approval? Months after it passed into law, we found out: millions of dollars in contracts available through the exchange to benefit the friends of this administration and the insurance carriers. All of that was captured in the very public, highly disgraceful $375,000 sweetheart deal given to a former insurance exchange board member. How did Gov. Otter respond? He didn't. And that's the problem.
This represents a pattern of behavior and lack of leadership from Gov. Otter. When Idaho Transportation Department Director Pam Lowe was fired, it cost state taxpayers more than $1.3 million, including a $750,000 wrongful termination settlement with Lowe. Where was Gov. Otter? Nowhere to be found.
When the private prison company running a facility near Boise was accused of chronically understaffing the prison, falsifying records and allowing a "gladiator school" to permeate, where was Gov. Otter? Nowhere to be found. In fact, while many people thought the Idaho State Police was investigating, no investigation was ever ordered. Stunningly, Gov. Otter seemed to have to be dragged into ordering an investigation.
When the Department of Administration worked out a deal to award a school broadband contract to an Otter ally-a deal that is now under federal scrutiny at a cost to taxpayers of $14.5 million-where was Gov. Otter? Nowhere.
When employees of the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections were accused of sexually abusing kids at the detention center near Nampa, and the agency's leaders were accused of doing little to stop abuse, where was Gov. Otter? Nowhere.
When the Department of Labor reviewed its Workforce Development Fund and found that the program is a mere 40 percent effective, where was Gov. Otter? Nowhere. The governor did nothing to address the problem.
The buck does not stop with this governor. The buck does not start with him either. For example, in 2009, Gov. Otter said the state urgently needs to act to repair the state's highway and bridge system. He urged and fought vigorously for major tax and fee increases to solve the problem. Legislators, including me, agreed that the state has an infrastructure problem, but we also said raising taxes was not appropriate.
We wanted the state to prioritize services and direct existing taxpayer resources toward fixing potholes, widening highways and repairing bridges. When the governor didn't get his tax increase, he stopped fighting to fix the roads and walked away from the issue. Now it is five years and two elections later, and there's still no leadership.
Idaho's wages are too low. Taxes are too high. Regulations are too onerous. A Fulcher administration will address these issues. A Fulcher administration will work tirelessly to eliminate corruption from state government. A Fulcher administration will fight to lower taxes, not raise them. A Fulcher administration will fight Obamacare, not help it succeed. A Fulcher administration will fight to get access to our resources and reduce our dependence on a bankrupt federal government. A Fulcher administration will fight to empower and advance Idaho. That's what our state needs and deserves.
Fulcher, a Meridian Republican, is a candidate for Idaho governor and is running in the May 20 primary election. The Statesman endorsement of Gov. Butch Otter ran in the April 20 Insight section.