Otter fires back at Idaho newspapers

In a guest opinion sent to Idaho newspapers Friday afternoon, Gov. Butch Otter responded to criticism of his budget proposals, accusing newspaper columnists of "(portraying) their opinion as facts."

"Too many writers now ignore, gloss over or leave out facts they find at odds with their conclusion or the point they’re trying to make," said Otter.

The guest opinion quotes from a recent Statesman editorial, and refers to a couple of my recent columns, including a Thursday column criticizing Otter's rationale for proposing to phase out several state agency budgets. The Thursday column is available at, along with audio from a Statesman editorial board meeting with Otter.

We will publish Otter's guest opinion Saturday, but here it is in full:

In December 1770, while arguing for the acquittal of British soldiers charged with killing his fellow Americans in the Boston Massacre, John Adams said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

There was a time when most newspaper columnists at least paid lip service to the good intentions of public officials. They might be misguided, shortsighted or simply stupid, the writers would suggest, but at least they meant well. Social niceties were observed; there was a higher level of mutual respect and civility.

That just isn’t the case anymore. Too many writers now ignore, gloss over or leave out facts they find at odds with their conclusion or the point they’re trying to make. Facts after all, as Adams said, can be stubborn things – and inconvenient.

As Governor, I expect to take my share of flak. It’s more than fair to criticize and even blast me. You don’t spend as long as I have in public life, or in business for that matter, without developing a pretty thick skin. But while I’m grateful to live in a country where the Constitution protects our right to freely express our opinions, I still am disappointed when some portray their opinions as facts.

Let me cite a couple of recent cases in point, without either crediting or condemning the offending parties:

The Claim: Otter wants to cut funding for public schools.

The Fact: Faced with revenue shortfalls, a constitutional requirement for a balanced budget, the fact that public schools make up a big share of the State budget, and the political reality that nobody wants to raise taxes – especially in an election year – I made the difficult decision that public schools would have to share the burden facing every other agency of State government and indeed every other Idaho citizen.

The Claim: Otter wants to shut down State parks and the Department of Parks and Recreation, Idaho Public Television, the Idaho Human Rights Commission, the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, the Idaho Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the Idaho Council on Developmental Disabilities, and the State Independent Living Council.

The Fact: I encouraged all State agencies in September 2009 to submit proposals for saving as much taxpayer money as possible. I wanted agency directors and administrators to have the flexibility to find efficiencies and savings without doing damage to their core statutory and constitutional missions. Most came through like champions, in many cases exceeding my expectations. However, Idaho Public Television said there was no savings to be had – anywhere. Facing the deadline for submitting budget proposals, I submitted plans for moving those budgets off the taxpayer-supported General Fund over four years. It was an effort to nudge those agencies toward the greater efficiency we need, or give them the chance to find alternative funding methods; the choice was theirs. Director Nancy Merrill of the Department of Parks and Recreation stepped up with a business plan for every park and a “can do” approach. The Human Rights Commission and Director Pam Parks – with the help of Roger Madsen at the Department of Labor – also found a way to address their budget needs, and those of Idaho taxpayers. The Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is getting administrative and support services help from the Department of Health and Welfare and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. The other agencies all are working hard to find solutions.

It was not an artful process. That’s a fair criticism. However, I did not propose closing any parks or eliminating any agencies. I did not propose “a batch of half-baked plans to zero out small but politically popular state services.” I did not ignore “hidden costs.” My approach was not, “If it brings joy to people, government has no business doing it.” And I am not trying “to run parks or public TV on the cheap.”

I understand that columnists are in the business of selling newspapers. I also understand that responsibility and prudent financial management are not exciting or headline-grabbing topics. However, they are at the heart of what State government must do on behalf of the people we serve.

It’s unfortunate that some columnists consider facts little more than obstacles to be overcome or sidestepped, justified in their minds by the righteous end of afflicting those who they consider “comfortable.”

But Adams was right 240 years ago. He still is.

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Facts are Stubborn Things...

that can come back to bite sometimes. For example, the exaggerated claim that no one wants to raise taxes. Not true. And of course there are the whoppers that are told everyday in politics. Finally, the governor is trying to run the entire state on the cheap.

Learn your hisroy governor

John Adams was a Federalist...believed in a competent and successful national government.

a bluff while playing all-in?

He said: I wanted them to believe they were going to be zeroed out,
But I didn't mean it.


The heads of these agencies are not appointed by ME, they do not work for ME.

seems like He wants ALL the power consolidated to HIM

only agencies with directors who report directly to him and serve at the will of the governor should be supported by the general fund.

His mea culpa sounds more like a bluff

Say what you want

I think the Governor did a huge thing in writing that opinion piece and he should be saluted for it. He is trying his darnedest to hold this state together during hard economic times, and I for one think he's doing one whale of a job.

He's doing what he has to do. Right on Gov. Keep the faith.

It's always nice to be able

It's always nice to be able to claim the high ground and quote the founding fathers. But this is more like the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight.
Still, the governor has a right to try to look good and this is his attempt to recover from his disastrous meeting with the Statesman editorial board.
Just glad he's not really trying to zero fund a great organization like Idaho Public TV.

What does an election year have to do with our constitution?

"The Fact: Faced with revenue shortfalls, a constitutional requirement for a balanced budget, the fact that public schools make up a big share of the State budget, and the political reality that nobody wants to raise taxes – especially in an election year"

Excuse me but the public school system was a condition of statehood and an integral part to our constitution and our very sense of viability as a state.

Idaho Statesman

Although not a big Gov Otter fan it is true that the "misstatesman" caters to the libtards and the Adafornians.


TRUE------------is gov Otter a "progressive"???? he has spent time in DC, will be watching.
The states-woman is just that---a dem/lib/socialist/progressive piece of work
they are NOT credible---a bunch of biased bthds trying to "influence" the State
ONE WORD_______________LEAVE

About Time

I am so tired of Republicans being afraid to take on the obviously bias media. Thank you Gov Otter. Again showing leadership. Hit hard Hit fast now hit often.

Re-read your state of the state speech

Gov. Otter, especially the part about the Health Care reform bills where you state that it could add as much as a half billion dollars to Medicaid costs in Idaho and also the part where you indicate that there is a wholesale assault on our self determination.
Just a question: Were these documented facts or just your opinion on these matters? Since you didn't clarify these statements, I think most folks listening to or reading your comments would assume they were facts.

Statesman is far from leftist

If you want to know anything about what the right wing is doing in Idaho you have to go to the Spokesman Review. Otter played games with the media and the agencies. Not exactly showing leadership.

Butch ran on a platform that

Butch ran on a platform that government doesn't work. He was elected Governor. His goal is to prove it doesn't. He is now the Chief Executive Officer. He succeeded in his goal. I wonder what corporate entity will be paying his bonus. His late former father-in-law is still stealing from our treasury with that "gift", of a Gov's mansion?

What sort of anarchy should we expect now. I wonder if I can get an Ice block to coast all the way to state house.

Strategic retreat

The governor is engaging in a strategic retreat from his earlier statements so that he will appear to be less of a villian come election day. If he is going to turn around and disavow every statement he makes then it is really impossible to assign any credible meaning to anything he says. His faithful fans will cheer him on whatever he does, whatever he says, whatever he says he will do but does not do, or does do but disavows. The rest of us will just scratch our heads and observe the peter principle in action.

Governor Otter

I have to side with Butch as far as what he is doing with what he has been given. The legislature is not going to raise taxes. That being said, Public Education gets hit because it is the biggest part of the pie. That piece of the pie could be larger if we got out of the charter school business and some of the other pet projects of the State Board and the Super Luna. By the way, how can a school dropout and plumber equate his businesses' shortcomings with public education? Let's get rid of politicos/contributors like Milford and get some educational knowledge on the State Board!

The Devil Made Me Do It! Cut Education

The Guv is spinning wildly. He could have made a stand for public schools, along with Superintendent Luna, to preserve a value of such intrinsic importance to future prosperity for our kids and grandchildren, that all of us should be proud to sacrifice for, even it if means a temporary tax increase.

Butch C.L. Otter: One confused libertarian.

Take Away His Founding Father's Crystal Ball

The fact is that while advocating a tax increase to fund roads, Butch agreed last year to cut public school spending by over $60 million and later proposed another $28 million before July 30th this year.

Very inconvenient, those facts. John Adams would be ashamed of C.L.'s false dedication to facts.

Who Ghost Wrote Otter's Statement? Wayne Hoffman?

No comment.

It’s not my fault, the

It’s not my fault, the constitution made do it!

LMFAO, what a piece of hideous campaign rhetoric.

Otter’s conservative ghost writer has been watching to much his new John Adams DVD’s.Coming from a republican who opposes good government it amazes me he quotes a founding father seeking to build a successful democracy for the people not just the elitists of society.

The ghost writer’s would have had better luck quoting Clements favorite life inspiration, the fictional western Lonesome Dove.

What we do know, Otter & the Idaho Republican party have declared war on everyday Idahoans and successful government!

It is concerning that the facts being presented are now indicate Idaho is being led into a black hole of self-fulfilling prophecy of by an archaic conservative ideology. Otter & the GOP majority have been willfully exploiting Idaho's poor economic status and virtually eliminated honest public debate within government while marginalizing voters to complainers and media to liars.

The GOP majority agenda concludes, ideas do not matter, words are not important and there is absolutely no level of a successful government they can accept.

The question is can Idahoans ever make government successful again with the damage being done by Otter & the GOP majority legislature.

We can only hope the day comes, the everyday Idahoans recognizing that our shared prosperity is at the core of our successes as communities and a state.

The time has come to reject Otter’s lack of accountability for his governance and hold the Idaho Republican Party responsible for the last 30 years of there rule over Idaho.

They created what we all see to today!

Partisan rule, unsustainable tax base, crumbling schools, extremely weakened education system, eroding infrastructure, no job growth economy and yes they defunded government to render it incapable of servicing the needs of the people.

Thanks conservatives, you really know how to throw a party and make the guest not only pay for but clean it up.!

Clarence L. Otter acknowledges he is not a newsman. AMEN

Like a midair collision with a tugboat

It's unanimous

Too many writers now ignore, gloss over or leave out facts they find at odds with their conclusion or the point they’re trying to make.


Ha ha. Looks like even the Governor doesn't like The Statesman.


Hey KR, do you see anything wrong in your statement here?

We will publish Otter's guest opinion Saturday, but here it is in full:

Obviously this post was on Friday.
I'm curious why you think the ink print is actually "publishing" while your blog post here is what????? It's not publishing? It's just scrwin around- with no worries about spelin, making cents, or editing because it's not publishing? Is that your philosophy?

More evidence Statesman editors have not adapted to the new age of journalism. You're still lost. Maybe Zimo can loan you his GPS to find your way back to the watercooler to talk with "The Rock".

My Funk and Wagnalls beats your World Books today.

Publish means to transfer to a form that can be read.

You publish books.
Recordings also.

Text is a form of the written language. That is all that is needed to qualify it as 'published'.

Like a midair collision with a tugboat

(Old gassy and ornery or not)

If you cannot stand the heat...

Don't go to the beech tree, Clarence.

Like a midair collision with a tugboat