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For the week of Jan. 19 through Jan. 25, 2000

Local legislators say governor’s State of State lacks substantive proposals


While commending Gov. Dirk Kempthorne for his attention to children’s issues in his State of the State address Monday, Wood River Valley Democratic legislators criticized the governor’s speech for lacking substantive proposals on critical issues facing Idaho.

"We are eager to hear if the governor takes bolder steps in his budget address [today], especially on school facilities, mental health and health care," Senate Minority Leader Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, said. "These are critical areas where Idaho lags behind other states and we need to take action to ensure all children reach their full potential."

Among the biggest disappointments for Minority House Leader Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, and Stennett was Kempthorne’s vision for the state’s tobacco settlement money.

In his speech, the governor said he wishes to invest the funds and spend only the interest.

Stennett and Jaquet discussed the governor’s speech in both a Tuesday telephone interview and a press statement.

Both local lawmakers would like to divide the fund and split it three ways between health and tobacco illness prevention, scholarships for Idaho high school graduates and a trust fund for future needs.

Additionally, Stennett and Jaquet were not pleased with the governor’s stance on President Bill Clinton’s roadless initiative.

The Republican governor is proud to be the first state in the country to file a suit against the federal government over the roadless initiative, Stennett said.

Stennett called the governor’s vocal pride "fed bashing."

Jaquet and Stennett agreed that if Idaho is against the program, cooperative efforts to reach a middle ground would be better than outright opposition at the start of the legislative session.

"The only way we can win is to build a local consensus solution, and that’s been taken off the table now," Stennett said.

"I felt he was bashing, and he wasn’t being visionary about this issue," Jaquet added.

The two local legislators were also dismayed that Kempthorne will try to create an endangered species office within his office.

"He wants it in his office, but he wants it funded. It would be state money to defend against endangered species listings," Stennett observed.

Legislators in general agreed that Kempthorne’s second State of the State address was stylish but vague.

The governor did weigh in with a number of clear, even decisive, positions on such issues as raising sportsmen’s fees for the Department of Fish and Game; and upgrading the Division of Environmental Quality to department status, despite opposition from the state’s largest business lobby, the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry.

"The feeling I have is it’s pushed right up to the limit," Senate Finance Chairman Atwell Parry, R-Melba, said. "There’s some very aggressive programs to look at."

House speaker Bruce Newcomb, R-Burley, joined most lawmakers in agreeing that today should provide at least some of the details they need to begin making decisions on the chief executive’s latest program.


The Associated Press contributed to this story


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