Robert Schaefer, a Nampa architect and longtime state legislator who served in the Idaho House for 28 years, has died at the age of 83. Schaefer made his name in the state Capitol as something of a conservative curmudgeon; he also chaired the House Commerce & Human Resources Committee, where he was an unwavering advocate for state employees. In a 2012 interview with the Idaho Press as he was leaving office, Schaefer, who served 14 terms under six governors, said he tried to represent people he described as like himself: “Not a moneyed person.”
Schaefer was always outspoken; when then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne vetoed a slew of bills amid a dispute with lawmakers over transportation funding, Schaefer called the governor “a petulant crybaby” and said, “He’s behaving like a spoiled child.”
Shortly thereafter, Schaefer was spotted by a reporter leaving the Statehouse with a bouquet of flowers. Asked who sent them, he said the arrangement had just arrived for him in the House anonymously, with a note saying, “Thanks for saying it like it is!”
Though he was known for opposing tax increases, he told the Idaho Press as he retired that there was one he tried unsuccessfully to champion: A one-year, one-cent sales tax increase, with all the money going to fixing the freeways and the railroad right-of-way between Boise and Nampa to allow for better commutes including light rail service. “I think that would have been a wise thing to do,” he said. You can read my full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or pick up Friday’s edition of the Idaho Press.