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Otter weighs in on economic struggles

The city of Aberdeen participated in the Governor’s “Capital for a Day” program on Tuesday.

Although this has not been the city’s first time participating, this was their first time with Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter in office.

People from not only Bingham County, but from regions across the state traveled out to Aberdeen to ask Governor Otter the front-running questions on their mind.

However, Tuesday’s meeting was of particular importance to the county.

The city has long struggled with a crippling economy, and this month’s announcement that Simplot will be closing its doors in the projected year, 2014, has only sparked fear in the community. Elected officials are doing everything they can to try and prevent a local economic panic from ensuing.

“There’s absolutely no work in Aberdeen,” city Mayor Morgan Anderson said. “I mean, we couldn’t employ anybody unless we bring in another company.”

Anderson said 27 percent of the city’s tax revenue comes from personal property taxes, and Simplot has long been the largest contributor to that financial pot. Along with putting more than 800 employees out of work, he noted that the plant’s closure could also halt the city itself from functioning.

“This is Aberdeen. We can’t lose Simplot. We can’t function without it and the property tax. If we lose it, it will have once been Aberdeen,” Anderson said.

Gov. Otter said city and county officials have been working with members from his office to try and come to a solution.

“Our department of commerce, our department of labor – are all working very hard to make sure that we have an opportunity to replace the employment opportunity for those people,” Gov. Otter said.

He also said the reason why the Aberdeen plant will be closing is due to the fact that the company has decided to build a new, high-tech plant in Caldwell. This new plant alone can do the work of the plants in: Aberdeen, Nampa, and the former Simplot facility in Caldwell combined.

“As a business, it makes sense. It’s a great business move but it’s not helping the city of Aberdeen,” Anderson said.

Anderson said they are currently in the process of trying to find large companies who are willing to start operating in the city. In the meantime, they will be looking at current Simplot employees’ skills and abilities to try and seek out other interim jobs for them. He also said that over 10 percent of Aberdeen’s community were Simplot employees.

“We don’t choose the winners and losers. You find the companies to bring to the city, and we’ll do our best to support you,” Gov. Otter advised.

The second issue brought before Gov. Otter was whether or not the personal property tax should stay in place. He agrees with the elected Bingham County officials who are saying this is not a black-and-white issue and the term “personal property tax” must first be defined before a bill can be passed in front of the House committee during this upcoming legislative session.

“We need to figure out what the long-term best interest of a business environment and a tax policy is in the state,” Gov. Otter said regarding the tax businesses are required to pay each year on personal items such as: staplers, chairs, and even the pictures hanging on the walls that must be accounted for.

For more information about how Blackfoot is dealing with the personal property tax, please follow the link provided here:

The third issue not only those in attendance were asking about, but a lot of netizens wrote for us to ask about as well, was over the issue of Medicare expansion.

“If I could, I would solve this tomorrow,” Gov. Otter said.

Representatives from the federal government in Washington, D.C. are urging the state to make a decision soon, but the Governor says he does not want to act without being notified of the rules of expanding Medicare.

He says the state pays for 133 percent of the poverty rate, but expanding this would allow the federal government to step in and pay for 138 percent.

This means, in order to qualify for Medicare, a family of four has to earn an annual total income of around $30,000.

The Governor says he will be reaching a decision soon.

The fourth most pertinent issue discussed at today’s meeting was the future of one of the Governor’s own projects, the Leadership In Nuclear Energy Commission.

Gov. Otter reported the Commission has now raised up to $45 million each year in grants from private companies. When he helped start the company, his initial goal was to bring in at least $8 to 10 million.

He said we can expect to see new developments in nuclear energy and nuclear health in this year. He also said he will be putting together a report with more details which should be out before the first legislative meeting.

You can follow Kaitlin on Twitter: @KaitlinLoukides

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