The consequence to this rift was some mild, early-session tension between GOP lawmakers and their governor over whether there was even enough money to accomplish Otter's decidedly modest session to-do lists.
Derek Santos, Otter's chief economist in the Division of Financial Management, told the panel there was good reason for going with the higher number this time around.
"My forecast reflects a gradually recovering economy â¿¿ nothing extraordinary, but acceleration nonetheless," Santos told the panel, adding that among things that make him feel comfortable, "The housing industry is starting to show some strength again."
The more pessimistic lawmakers on the panel said they worried adopting Otter's number could leave the Legislature scrambling in future years to make up for unduly rosy expectations.Particularly worrisome, said Rep. Steve Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, was that Santos had just in December pared back the current year's revenue forecasts. Hartgen wanted to go with a $2.74 billion estimate, a number that reflected the median of all the panelists' forecasts. "It seems to me that the median of the committee is the better estimate of the real world," Hartgen said. "Some additional caution is warranted." In the end, however, the optimists won out against a backdrop of an Idaho unemployment rate that in November dropped to 6.8 percent â¿¿ the lowest since March 2009 and well under the peak of 8.9 percent in July 2011. In what's become a bit of a mantra for Idaho lawmakers this young session, Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, told fellow a panelist that "maybe there's nothing wrong with being cautiously optimistic."