Letters from the West

Bedke says lawmakers will be frugal this session

House Speaker Scott Bedke said lawmakers will meet the education task force budget goals including funds for a career ladder.

But he told the Idaho Environmental Forum Wednesday not to expect a lot of new programs because of concerns about the economy, especially in rural Idaho. Bedke spoke about the agreement earlier this year between surface water users and groundwater users in eastern Idaho and the Magic Valley.

The deal will allow the state to stablize the Eastern Snake River Plain that has been dropping for more than 60 years until this year it reached the same level as it was in 1912 before irrigation raised aquifer levels steadily into the 1950s. Bedke said the issue is important because it avoids major reductions in cropland that could dramatically hurt the economy and reduce tax revenues for schools statewide.

Bedke also said the Bundy brothers and other ranchers who have joined with militia members in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, don't represent western public land ranchers like him.