For reporters at Thursday’s Associated Press Legislative Preview, the admonishment was clear: Gov. Butch Otter would not take questions on issues he planned to cover in his State of the State Address on Monday. I asked one that I thought got around that stricture: Is there enough money this year both to cut taxes and raise spending for things like education?
“You’re so new here I’m not going to pick on you as the first one,” the Governor said wryly, before going on to answer “in kind of an oblique way.”
“Remember the government is not going to grow back at the same rate the economy grows,” he said. “My budget will reflect right now less than where the economy is anticipated to grow.”
Later, I got a chance to ask a second question: Governor, since you’re not so new here, perhaps you can tell us about going into your third term and how it differs from your first two terms. “I don’t know how specific I can get,” he said at first. Then he went on to describe what he saw as an exceptional level of cooperation and conviviality between the executive and legislative branches.
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“I think there’s as honest and sincere a relationship in the government today as I have ever seen,” he said.
We’ll see if everyone feels that way at the end of the session.
Some bon mots from the Legislative leadership, who appeared after the governor:
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, on fixing the $60 million schools broadband contract invalidated by a judge in November: “The fact is we’ve kinda been futzing around.”
Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, on potential hurdles to new taxes or fees for transportation repairs: “And we have to remember finally the governor is a little ‘ouchy’ because, as he mentioned earlier, he tried and it got defeated.”
House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, on the chances the Legislature will take up the question of local option taxing authority this session: “Don’t hold your breath on that.”
Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, on the same topic: “We talk about local control but we have a hard time giving it.”