Idaho Gov. Butch Otter rejected a plan from Democratic challenger Keith Allred that would have Idaho create its own health care reforms and avoid following new federal health care laws. The governor said the plan from his likely opponent in the November election won’t be any cheaper for Idahoans.
“We can opt out as long as we’re as bad as or worse than what [Congress] presented,” Otter said Thursday during a campaign event in Boise. Federal legislation that would allow states to opt out of new health care laws requires that states come up with a plan that is at least as comprehensive as the federal plan. Otter said that a state version of changes to health insurance would be just as bad as the federal plan. “It’s a bank buster. We’re looking at a century of debt before we get out of it.” The governor supports rejecting the new national plan by suing the federal government on constitutional grounds.
Otter said states’ ability to opt out of federal legislation, as Allred is advocating on health care, is nothing new. “It’s not unusual for Congress, when they pass a national policy, to provide for states to opt out of them,” he said. “We could’ve opted out of No Child Left Behind [or] almost all of those national policies that they give us, but you’ve got to have their permission.” Otter said that it can be tough for states that want to go it alone to gain approval from federal officials, and that it wouldn’t save Idaho taxpayers any money. “It always ends up shifting the cost directly back to the people that are asking to opt out. I don’t know how anybody could possibly think that you’d be ahead.”
During his campaign rally in Boise, Otter reiterated his goals of expanding states’ rights, running state government more like a private business, and improving education. “We’ve taken the feds on on several fronts,” Otter said, mentioning battles over endangered species as well as health care. “Every Idahoan puts a high premium on individual responsibility and individual liberty, and it is the state’s responsibility to help protect them.”
On education, the governor touted that there’s been increased enrollment in state universities and colleges and downplayed reductions in funding due to shrinking state revenues. “You’ve bet we’ve had some tough times,” he said. “But we’re tough enough to handle those tough times.”
Otter was joined at the Capitol by other GOP leaders, including U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, and several state lawmakers. “We have the right man in the right place at the right time,” Risch said about Otter. “What we have today is a governor who is bringing the solutions that Idahoans want to these difficult times. He is using the fiscal discipline that is required in these very difficult times."
Otter faces several challengers in the May 25 Republican primary before a potential showdown with Allred in the November election.