Gov. Butch Otter gave his State of the State speech Monday, and it was every bit as bad as I anticipated. In addition to proposing massive spending increases for education — now stylized as “K-through-career” — the governor doubled down on his support for redistributive cronyism which gives millions of dollars earned by hard-working Idahoans directly to big businesses. He also embraced a significant de facto tax increase in the form of an Internet sales tax.
He unapologetically said he will refuse to consider any proposals for funding infrastructure through the general fund where it would appropriately compete with education and welfare, and he is thereby implicitly pushing Idaho toward additional tax increases.
Rather than rejecting outright Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, Otter is asking the Legislature to hold hearings on the subject and to give credence to the pontificating of the industry insiders who made up the Medicaid Expansion Workgroup. He went on to praise Idaho’s state exchange and unsurprisingly gave no mention of the fact that should King v. Burwell be successful, Idahoans will be unable to benefit from the decision and will continue to languish under the full slate of Obamacare mandates.
For all of the bad ideas the governor advocated, there were many items which were conspicuously missing from his address. He did not mention firearms or the Second Amendment at all, let alone address the growing chorus calling for Idaho to legalize permitless carry. He did not discuss Idaho’s growing dependency on federal funds. He did not even acknowledge the ongoing efforts of many Idahoans — and an interim legislative committee — to obtain control over mismanaged federal lands. He also ignored the growing coalition promoting the repeal of the sales tax on groceries.
Otter chose to embrace bigger government as the solution to Idaho’s difficulties rather than to support greater freedom, lower taxes, and less redistribution. Whether he’s imperiously declaring that “education must not be allowed to end with high school” or recommending a transfer of $5 million for industry sector grants, the governor has apparently never met a problem he doesn’t think more government can solve. That’s bad news for Idaho and bad news for everyone who believes in smaller government and individual liberty.