Election Central

Fulcher: Otter ‘phony’ math off by $7 billion on economic growth

Sen. Russ Fulcher is throwing cold water on Gov. Butch Otter’s announcement Thursday that he was “thrilled” to report Idaho’s gross domestic product reached $60 billion in the final quarter of 2013.

Otter’s math is off by $7 billion, says Fulcher, Otter’s principal challenger in the May 20 primary.

In a Friday news release, Fulcher says Otter is “using phony numbers to claim ‘mission accomplished’ on Project 60, when that’s not really the case.”

I asked Otter’s campaign manager, Jayson Ronk, for comment Friday morning but hadn’t heard back as of Monday morning. Absent a reply, here’s a look at how the pair see the numbers:

Otter’s news release Thursday says, “Project 60 was aimed at growing Idaho’s gross domestic product from $51.5 billion a year when Governor Otter took office in 2007 to at least $60 billion. As of the fourth quarter of 2013, Idaho’s total economic activity achieved the $60 billion-a-year pace and is forecasted to reach $62 billion in 2014.”

Said Otter: “I’m thrilled that we’ve achieved that goal despite weathering some of the toughest economic times in memory. Across the nation, people are looking to Idaho as a state that’s focused on meeting the needs of business. Accelerate Idaho is our strategy for ensuring that Idaho is the right place for employers looking to expand or relocate. The goal is more career opportunities for Idahoans.”

Fulcher replied in his Friday release, saying Otter is using total GDP, not inflation- and currency-adjusted “real GDP.”

“When Otter proposed growing the state’s economic pie to $60 billion, as part of his ‘Project 60′ economic plan, Idaho’s real GDP was $49.9 billion (2009), according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s the number Otter said needed to grow. But by 2012, the agency said Idaho’s real GDP was $51 billion; lower than it was five years after Otter took office (In 2007, GDP was $51.4 billion). So what did Otter do? He changed yard sticks, deciding to use the bloated ‘total GDP’ number instead to measure success and declare victory. JPMorgan Chase and Company reported in December 2013 Idaho’s real GDP at $53 billion not the $60 billion to $62 billion pace Otter is reporting now.

“Instead of acknowledging the lower growth — and the failure to get Idaho’s economy off the ground — Otter just counted the higher priced goods of today, making it look like the economy grew,” Fulcher said.

“We have a problem here in Idaho,” said Fulcher. “Wages are too low and the economy is stagnant. Pretending to meet an economic goal when we’ve got a long way to go will not solve the problem. Otter should be upfront with the public about where we are and where we’re headed economically.”

In a Statesman story Friday, Fulcher also said Otter’s new “Accelerate Idaho” initiative was too little, too late.

“We are tops in the nation per capita for minimum wage jobs,” Fulcher said in Thursday’s news release. “While the governor calls that ‘real world experience’ for Idahoans, I say that too many are stuck at an entry level without a better job to be promoted to.”

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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Posted in Election Central, Idaho Politics