Election Central

Fulcher rips Otter’s management of Idaho economy

As Gov. Butch Otter flew around the state Wednesday visiting businesses in four cities to mark the official opening of his campaign for a third term, his principal GOP challenger said Otter’s tenure “will be remembered as eight years of missed opportunities.”

“An announcement tour to a select group of businesses that are friendly to him cannot hide his lack of leadership on issues most important to Idaho,” Sen. Russ Fulcher said in a news release issued as Otter was making his way from Twin Falls to Idaho Falls. “Everything is not ‘awesome’ as Otter would like us to believe. Idaho can do better.”

Saying the economy has languished since Otter became governor in 2007, Fulcher cited Idaho having the highest per capita proportion of minimum-wage jobs in the nation and ranking 47th among the states in average wage.

“Idahoans would much prefer to have an economy with high wage job opportunities,” Fulcher said.

Otter chose four businesses as backdrops for his statewide swing: Western States Equipment in Meridian, Glanbia Foods in Twin Falls, Snake River Landing in Idaho Falls and AGC AeroComposites in Hayden.

“We have accomplished great things over the past seven years, but my work is not yet complete,” Otter said in a Tuesday news release announcing the fly-around. “We need to continue to make sure we are preparing Idaho’s workforce for a more competitive future, and that there are career opportunities available here so our citizens and communities can prosper.”

Fulcher countered with a question about Otter’s Twin Falls stop, asking, “(W)ill he invite the 50 people who got laid off after Glanbia received $1.25 million in local urban renewal funds?”

Otter’s campaign did not reply to requests for comment Wednesday.

A Meridian businessman, Fulcher is the Senate’s No. 4 Republican leader. Democrat A.J. Balukoff likely will face the winner of the May 20 Republican primary.

Fulcher said Otter would avoid locations including the Maximus call center in Boise, which is laying off 1,600 employees who serviced customers under the health insurance mandate; the defunct Hoku polysilicon plant in Pocatello, which never delivered 250 promised jobs despite millions in public support; and Transform Solar in Nampa, which laid off 250 people after receiving $1.7 million in state workforce training grants.

Fulcher also said Otter won’t be stopping at the College of Southern Idaho, where five daily buses collect workers to staff casinos in Jackpot, Nev.

Fulcher also critiqued Otter for failing to support a bill co-authored by Fulcher to repeal Idaho’s sales tax on groceries. “Idahoans face some of the highest personal and business income taxes in the West, while our tax code is riddled with exemptions for special interests,” Fulcher said.

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