The Idaho business organization behind a website and thousands of automated phone calls criticizing Keith Allred, a Democratic candidate for governor, defends all the statements that Allred’s campaign has called dirty politics. The campaign arm of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry (IACI), the Idaho Prosperity Fund, created the website AllredInk.com calling Allred’s proposal to use higher tax revenue figure to set the state budget dangerous. The group also made between 35,000 and 50,000 phone calls, targeted mostly at independents across the state, with a similar message.
Allred has said the claims are wrong, but IACI President Alex LaBeau stands behind the website. “We’re not changing a thing,” LaBeau said. “I’m not surprised by Allred’s response.”
The website’s claims stem from comments by Allred during the past several months that lawmakers and Gov. Butch Otter set revenue targets too low for the next fiscal year, which starts in July. Allred preferred higher targets proposed by Idaho state economist Mike Ferguson and other groups that used economic research. Lawmakers balanced the state budget based on those lower targets, which led to spending reductions for public schools and most state agencies.
LaBeau said Allred can’t use the higher revenue targets for the next fiscal year without also using the higher targets for the current 2010 fiscal year. “You can’t talk about one without talking about the other,” LaBeau told IdahoReporter.com. “You can’t just focus on (fiscal year) 2011 without having it impact (fiscal year) 2010, and that’s where his arguments fall down.”
IACI has it wrong, according to Allred’s spokesman, Shea Andersen. “2010 has been rough, and we can’t argue with having to budget carefully for 2010,” he said. “What we’ve been talking about all along is 2011. The governer picked a number out of thin air because he thought 2011 would be worse, and we’ve already seen three months of positive sales tax returns and we’re going to see better. We’re already showing an increase in these revenues.” Allred also released a two-minute video on YouTube about the state budget and IACI's actions.
Both Otter’s original “zero-growth budget” he presented to lawmakers in January and the revenue projections lawmakers decided on later that month predicted that state revenues in the coming year would be at least even to this year, not lower, as Andersen claimed.
Like Allred, Otter said the recent tax revenue numbers include good news, despite the early April tax revenues coming in $55.5 million below Ferguson’s projections. Adding April’s gap to earlier months leaves the state $13.5 million below the revenue it budgeted for, but $82 million below Ferguson’s projections. IACI ties that $82 million figure to Allred, which Allred’s campaign has said is wrong.
The actions by IACI come early in the campaign, but LaBeau said he needed to respond to Allred’s comments about the state budget. “We felt it was important to go ahead and make a statement now,” he said. “When we saw his statements of his continual criticism of the Legislature and the responsible fiscal nature of what the Legislature and the governor did, we said ‘somebody’s got to go forward and challenge him.’” Andersen said he thinks the website and phone calls are full of lies.
Allred must win a May 25 primary before heading to the general election in November.