The Democratic choice for governor, Keith Allred, said that the Republican-controlled Legislature didn't need to make unprecedented cuts to education spending. Allred told IdahoReporter.com that had the government, including his opponent, Republican Gov. Butch Otter, been more proactive and more optimistic about tax revenues, public schools in the state wouldn't be forced to make unneeded budget reductions.
Allred made an appearance Saturday at the Idaho Democratic Party's state convention, at which he hammered Otter and the Legislature for the cuts. He said that many schools around the state have outdated textbooks and supplies of those aren't sufficient to allow students to take them home to use in studies. Allred said that instead of cutting funding to public schools, lawmakers should have invested in more tax collectors for the Idaho State Tax Commission, which he said would have brought in about $60 million to the state's coffers. Lawmakers did authorize the commission to bring on more tax collectors, though they believe they can bring in about $4.5 million in the next year. Allred slammed the education cuts and Otter. "You know, Butch Otter likes to talk about the proper role of government, well the Founding Fathers dictated what the primary role of government is at the state level, and that is to provide a thorough system of public instructions. As I've gone around the state and look at the face of these education cuts, this is not a thorough system," Allred said.
Allred, who has continuously cast himself as a centrist and consensus-building candidate, said that conservatives do have at least one good point in their criticisms of funding for public schools. "Conservatives say just spending more money on education won't make it better; they're right and the evidence absolutely supports that," Allred said, explaining that the state must increase funding up to adequate levels and then re-evaluate the cost efficiency of the current methods of public instruction.
Earlier this year, Allred announced that if he is elected governor in November, he would seek to work on health care reforms at the state level. Allred said that if the state could produce a better health care system than the federal government - which he assured the state could do - the state would become exempt from many mandates found in the health care reforms enacted by Congress in March. Since that announcement, Allred has taken his message around the state in campaign events, and he reports that Idahoans have generally been receptive to his idea for health care. "They like the idea of someone who will roll up their sleeves, go to work, and find practical solutions," said Allred.
Before speaking at the convention, Allred explained his position on Idaho’s right-to-work law, in response to rhetorical fire he took on the issue from Republican leadership of the Idaho House of Representatives Friday. In an interview with IdahoReporter.com Saturday, Allred initially refused to clarify his feeling toward right-to-work, but said that he has made no promises to labor leaders about the law. He said that during his talks with labor representatives, he has told them that only ideas that can garner broad support from Idaho’s citizens and Legislature would be ideas he would pursue if elected governor. ”I have made no commitment to repeal right-to-work and labor leaders have not asked for that,” he said. When asked about his personal feelings about it, Allred said “I don’t think the governor’s platform is a place to advance personal feelings. I think it is a place to figure out what is in the interests of everyday Idahoans.”
A higher-than-expected number of Idaho Republicans voted for candidates other than Otter in the May 25 Republican primary election. Allred said that as a centrist, he is looking to attract those dissatisfied with Otter over to his side by continually promising to be a governor who will listen to both sides before making a final decision. "It really is a place for independent, practical problem-solvers," Allred said. He pointed to the period in Idaho history in which Democrats occupied the gubernatorial seat, while Republicans controlled the Legislature, which would be a likely scenario if Allred prevails in November. "The only thing that actually got done, were things that looked wise to both Democrats and Republicans," said Allred.