| 03.18.2018

Otter updates issues in 2013 legislature


Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter updated the information covered in the State of the State address in January, concerning everything from personal property tax and education reform to the state health insurance exchange and Idaho’s budget.
Otter said Idaho’s economy is doing well and the budget he submitted is structurally sound, even with alterations and shifting funds.
The governor said this means the government is not spending any one-time money on ongoing needs. The ongoing needs will be met by the revenue stream projected by the state government, Otter said.
Unemployment in Idaho drops one-tenth each month, Otter said, and it has gone from about 9 percent to 6.6 percent, the lowest it’s been in almost four years, according to the Idaho Department of Commerce.
Otter said his Project 60 initiative will help create more jobs for Idahoans. Today, the budget consists of more than $58 billion and the governor said by the end of 2013, Idaho’s budget could reach the goal of $60 billion.
Personal property tax is one of the big issues hitting the legislature this year. Otter said the $20 billion set aside to take care of personal property tax will be handled carefully.
“If we went for a seven year payout, that would make up the $140 million that the counties would lose,” Otter said. “The underlying caution is whatever we do, let’s do no harm.”
The state run health insurance exchange would let Idaho create its own marketplace for individuals and small businesses instead of opting for a federal exchange. States are required to have an exchange ready to run by Jan. 1, 2014, according to the Idaho Legislature.
The Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee voted eight to one on the bill to have a 16 person board and establish the health insurance exchange. It will then go to the Senate floor for a final vote.
Otter said he wants to make it clear that he has nothing to do with Obamacare and he is against it.
“I can’t tell you how difficult of a position I’m in,” Otter said. “I was proud of the fact and bragged about it … that Idaho was the first to sue. The first to pass a legislation, to initiate a suit against Obamacare.”
Otter said settling for the federal exchange is the “worst we’re going to end up with.”
He said he would not let Idaho default to a federal exchange by rejecting a state insurance exchange.
“I believe that it’s my obligation as the chief executive of the state to do everything I can to protect the state,” Otter said. “I wish we didn’t have to deal with it.”
Idaho’s Medicaid expansion is another issue under debate.
The task force Otter created for Medicaid expansion suggested to opt for Medicaid expansion if they could fix what was broken in the Medicaid system that now has working and non-working poor collecting up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
“It’s broken and we need to fix it,” Otter said.
Otter said the government pays the doctor when a Medicaid patient goes to their office. He said the task-force wants to see what the results are when the person gets out of the office.
“We want to pay for performance,” Otter said. “Are these people getting healthier? Are they helping themselves? There’s a strong element in their personal responsibility.”
The governor also created an education task force and said he is trying to find a way to reform education in Idaho.
Otter said Idaho universities and businesses urge him to change the education system in Idaho in order to prepare high school graduates for college or work.
“I think the task force has made very sincere and legitimate efforts to move the state toward a reformed system that will generate the kind of needs, not only for the students, but also for the students entering the workforce or entering higher education,” Otter said.
Otter said he intends to run for his third term in 2014, but won’t officially announce it until later.
“I’m not going to be pushed into a calendar,” Otter said. “I have a lot of things on my mind right now. I’m planning on it, I’m fundraising, I’m doing those things that I can at the same time that I’m trying to govern the state of Idaho.”
Emily Johnson can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu

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