Keith Allred outlined how he might run Idaho state government if he wins the governor’s election in November to a crowd of under 200 in Boise Thursday evening. The Democratic candidate for governor aimed some attacks at incumbent Gov. Butch Otter during a town hall that consisted mostly of questions from the audience on a diverse set of subjects.
The town hall covered a broad range of policy topics, and Allred cemented his positions on many issues facing state government. On education, he criticized the $128.5 million spending cut and came out in support of state-funded pre-school programs, but said charter schools shouldn’t be expanded. Allred backed local option sales taxes for city development projects as well as increasing fees on large trucks in the state, but not raising the state gas tax to pay for transportation projects.
Allred tried to toe the line between the partisan divide on some policy issues. When asked about civil unions for gays and lesbians, he said that their rights should be honored and protected, but didn’t call for overturning the state’s constitutional amendment against same sex marriage. On abortion, he said the practice isn’t an appropriate form of birth control, but that it should be allowed in rare instances, including rape, incest, and threat to a woman’s health.
The Democratic candidate levied some attacks at the Republican Party and at the governor. He said the GOP platform took party extremism to whole new levels and that some of its proposals, including a repeal of the 17th Amendment and transition back to using gold and silver, ideas that would take Idaho 100 years into the past.
He also criticized the GOP platform’s candidate disclosure requirement, often called a loyalty oath. “Folks, that is taking us the wrong direction,” Allred said. “That is the problem, not the solution to our politics.”
Allred’s critiques of Otter ranged from the economy to immigration to health care. Allred said the governor’s economic view is focused too narrowly on agriculture, mining, and timber, ignoring technology and other business sectors.
Allred also said Otter shouldn’t rail against the federal government for not solving the U.S.’s immigration issues when he didn’t propose immigration legislation during his six years in the House of Representatives. “How does he with a straight face wag his finger at the Congress and say Congress needs to get its act together?” he asked the crowd. “They have no shame, these career politicians.”
Allred repeated his call for repealing some sales tax exemptions. “The most powerful single lever state government could pull would be to look at the $2 billion in tax exemptions that are on the books, and close those that don’t make sense to reduce the overall tax rate,” he said. Allred added that powerful and connected interests are more likely than small businesses owners to lobby lawmakers for a tax break.
The sales tax brings in $1.2 billion annually, while exemptions total $1.7 billion. Some of the largest exemptions are for medical services and production equipment. Allred didn’t say which he’d like to get rid of, but is proposing a plan to have 1,000 citizens in each of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts pour over the exemptions to determine which lawmakers should end.
Allred would like to see a similar crowdsourcing approach, asking a large number of citizens what they think about lowering health care costs. “We have got to get serious about solving the problem and controlling the costs, and that will free up the resources to spend them where we really need them,” he said. One option he did back was expanding medical services provided by nurses and other medical professionals that aren’t doctors as a potential way to lower costs and mitigate the state’s shortfall of doctors.
Allred has similar town hall events planned for Nampa and Lewiston in August, and said he’s still scheduling events in eastern Idaho. Otter’s campaign manager, Debbie Field, said she is planning tele-town halls, where people could call in to ask the governor questions.
A poll released by Rasmussen this week showed Otter held a 17 percentage point lead over Allred, though that number has shrunk from similar polls in May and March.