Newspapers in Twin Falls, Lewiston and Idaho Falls poked GOP Gov. Butch Otter Thursday for losing his bet with former Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus over Idaho's fiscal 2011 revenue.
The news came Wednesday that the state collected $85 million more than Otter and the GOP Legislature predicted, growth of 7.9 percent.
The lower projections prompted big cuts in education and Medicaid, but $68 million of the surplus will go to K-12 and community colleges because of federal rules attached to Idaho's receipt of stimulus funds.
Andrus, Idaho's only four-term governor, left office in 1995. But he won a $100 bet with Otter when he sided with now-retired state economist Mike Ferguson's higher — and slightly undershot — projection.
"How come it took Otter by surprise?," wrote the Lewiston Tribune's Marty Trillhaase. "How come Andrus saw it coming?"
"Otter and the GOP chose simply to ignore Ferguson's estimates — and those of his successor, Derek Santos — in favor of political numbers. They did it last year. They continued this year." Otter pegged fiscal 2012 growth at 3 percent, Santos predicted 6.9 percent, prompting Trillhaase to write, "That one decision forced about $90 million in public schools, higher education and Medicaid cuts next year."
At the Idaho Falls Post Register, Corey Taule wrote, "The bottom line is this: Ferguson was right. Otter and the Republican Legislature were wrong. Unless, of course, being wrong was right and the intention all along was to starve the beast and create an artificial surplus that should, according to House Republican Floor Leader Mike Moyle, be given 'back to taxpayers.'"
The Tribune and Post Register are subscription-only papers; online access requires payment.
But the Twin Falls Times News is still free online. In an unsigned editorial, the paper called the revenue figures "sweet, belated vindication" for Ferguson.
The paper also noted the GOP's ignoring advice from GOP Attorney General Lawrence Wasden about unconstitutional legislation in 2011. The state is now fighting in federal court over anti-union, health care and abortion laws.
"Didn't matter," writes the Times-News. "The Legislature passed them and Otter signed them anyway.
"Which leaves two possibilities: Either legislators and our governor are becoming too smart to require professional advice, or they're engaging in social engineering — damn the consequences to real people."
You can follow Idaho Statesman Politics on Twitter.