Balukoff: Idaho has ‘a lot of Otter fatigue’

The Democratic candidate for governor says he’s running to improve education and restore public trust in government.

MOSCOW-PULLMAN DAILY NEWSJune 22, 2014 

Gov. Butch Otter has been in office since 2007, but he doesn’t have much to show for his efforts, A.J. Balukoff said.

“I’m hearing a lot of Otter fatigue as I go around the state,” he said.

Balukoff, who was in Moscow for the weekend’s Idaho Democratic Party convention, spoke Thursday with the Moscow-Pullman Daily News editorial board. While Balukoff is critical of Otter on many issues, education is the one dearest to his heart. Balukoff will have served on the Boise School Board 17 years this November, and serves on a variety of nonprofit boards in Boise.

“The main reason I got into this race was education,” Balukoff said. “We need to make sure schools are the priority.”

That means the state should fulfill its end of the bargain when it comes to funding. He said school districts are having to pass supplemental levies to stay afloat, and that is creating disparity between the districts that are able to pass them and those that aren’t. Supplemental levies last just two years, he noted, which makes long-term planning difficult for the districts.

He also said the state is not providing enough support to school districts in implementing Common Core. He said he is a proponent of the new raised standards, which he said is an improvement over No Child Left Behind, which lowered standards to inflate the number of students performing at grade level. That led to high school graduates struggling in college and spending their first year taking remedial courses, he said.

When it comes to Idaho’s economy, Balukoff plans to push the state’s Department of Commerce to focus on supporting businesses already in Idaho and not as heavily on bringing in new companies, he said.

“The focus, to me, needs to be on helping the companies that are already here to be the best they can be,” Balukoff said.

He also said the state’s minimum wage should be raised and frequently adjusted for inflation so the issue doesn’t need to be repeatedly addressed.

Finally, Balukoff attacked Otter’s leadership ability.

“Take a look at where the state was when Gov. Otter took office compared to where it is now,” he said. Before Otter’s tenure, only a few states ranked better than Idaho in per-capita income, he said. Now the Gem State is at the bottom.

There needs to be a way to re-create the trust between the state and the people, he said. Looking at the laws that have passed in spite of overwhelming opposition, such as Senate Bill 1254, which allows firearms on university and college campuses, it is clear that representatives are not listening to the people electing them, Balukoff said.

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