The governor of neighboring Idaho dropped in on our state last week and offered some words of — hmmm — advice.
Butch Otter no doubt was extended the usual courtesies that accompany a speaking invitation, and we’re sure the folks in Tri-Cities heard a “thank you” from him for the invitation to Kennewick, as did the Washington Policy Center for asking Otter to speak to the group’s Solutions Summit.
But some of the visiting governor’s comments essentially served as potshots directed at the host state — in the words of the Tri-City Herald, “stopping just short of telling Washingtonians to move to Idaho.” This strikes us as a tad ungracious for a guest.
In his speech, Otter touched on areas like school performance and voter turnout, and he strongly hinted that Idaho’s in-migration makes it a better place than the states that people left. Well … allow us to stand up for our state. According to the Herald, Otter said Washington could learn from Idaho’s reduction in school spending.
To see what we could learn, we looked at one key state-by-state comparison: US News and World Report’s rating of the percentage of schools earning gold and silver medals, an indication that schools are successfully preparing students for college. This rating is based on test scores. Idaho placed 37th out of 50 states plus the District of Columbia, while Washington found itself much higher, at 15th.
We'll also note that a recent statewide poll found Washington residents rate education as the most important issue facing the Legislature this year. So our state’s citizens believe we can climb higher into the nation’s top one-third — a contrast to our eastern neighbor’s apparent satisfaction with the bottom one-third. To each state its own.
Perhaps the governor’s most perplexing comment regarded voter turnout. Otter told the gathering, “I’ve often said the majority of the people in the red states work for a living, the majority of people in the blue states vote for a living — that’s what’s wrong.” Respectfully, what’s wrong is the assertion that civic engagement is a vice.
And the figures don’t bear out the governor’s statement: In the 2014 general election, Idaho’s turnout was actually higher than Washington’s, with 56.1 percent of registered voters taking part there vs. 53.5 percent here — the lack of a statewide race is cited in Washington’s lower turnout, and the Idaho ballot did feature the governor himself. We'll note that the 53.5 percent figure proved a disappointment to this state elections officials, including a secretary of state who shares the Idaho governor’s political party. We’re certain she’d enthusiastically apprise the governor as to why participation in a participatory democracy is a virtue.
A final note: Central Washington has much in common with Idaho, especially in agriculture, so we appreciate Idaho’s success in growing and marketing its signature product: the potato. The crop is a source of great pride in Idaho, much like apples in the Yakima Valley. So perhaps everyone can learn from the cultivating practices and harvesting prowess of the nation’s most productive potato-growing county, which is Grant County.
Thanks for stopping by, governor.