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Idaho Governor Weighs In Mid-Session On Tax Cuts, Medicaid Expansion

Office of the Governor
File photo of Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter

Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter is voicing skepticism that his fellow Republicans in the state legislature can both cut income taxes and do justice to public education. Otter made his remarks during a rare press Q and A in Boise Thursday.

The governor said tens of thousands of jobs are going unfilled in Idaho for a lack of educated or properly trained applicants.

“When they say to me, ‘Butch which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Do we cut taxes to increase business or do we build the workforce,’” Otter said. “Quite frankly, business isn’t going to come if they don’t have a workforce.”

Reacting to the governor’s remarks, Republican Speaker of the House Scott Bedke insisted there is room in the state budget to do both tax cuts and a school funding boost.

Earlier this month, the Republican-controlled Idaho House passed a modest trim to state personal and corporate income tax rates and increased a credit for low-income earners.

Also Thursday, an Idaho state House committee began consideration of Otter’s plan to provide subsidized health insurance to more low income Idahoans. Republican lawmakers in Idaho have steadfastly refused to expand Medicaid at federal expense to cover this population at just above poverty level.

Otter said he understands the ideological opposition to Obamacare, so he proposed a state-funded program as a fallback.

“The question is no longer, ‘do we need to do something?’ It’s, ‘where are we going get the money?’” the govern said. “That’s a great and important step forward that we haven’t had since Obamacare fell on us.”

The proposed state program covers doctor’s office visits, but not prescription drugs or hospitalization as Medicaid would. It has an ongoing cost of $30 million per year. That price tag has given members of the legislature pause and it’s not clear what will happen next.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.