BOISE – Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik would use the position of lieutenant governor the same way he’s used his county position, he said in a televised debate Friday: He’d travel the state and nation urging support for the transfer of federal public lands to the states.
Chmelik is facing incumbent Lt. Gov. Brad Little in the May 20 primary election. Both are Republicans.
“I believe you have a lot more pull as lieutenant governor than you do as a county commissioner,” Chmelik said in the debate, broadcast statewide on Idaho Public Television.
Little, a rancher and four-term state senator who’s been the state’s lieutenant governor since 2009, said if re-elected he’ll continue to focus on economic development. “We absolutely have to build the economy,” he said.
Little said he was in Burley the day before, meeting with a group of Idaho investors who “want to start a facility there that’s going to create 100 jobs.” Little said the lieutenant governor can help groups like that with “issues with the Department of Environmental Quality, issues with the federal government. … Because I’m in both the legislative branch and the executive branch, I am well-suited to do that type of work.”
Idaho’s lieutenant governor presides over the state Senate when it’s in session, voting only when there’s a tie, and fills in when the governor is out of state or incapacitated.
The two Republicans were asked how they’d carry out their stated belief in limited government by making changes at the state level. “That’s a tough one to say because we’re so entrenched with the federal government,” Chmelik said. “We pretty much can’t do anything in the state without dealing with the federal government.”
Pressed for an answer, Chmelik said, “All the business taxes we have, what the DEQ requires, the Fish and Game. … I believe with those departments, we need to make some real changes.”
Little said he’d like to see more decisions pushed down to the local level in areas like transportation. “Fish and Game is protected by the Constitution,” Little said.
Little spoke out for pursuing all options for increased state management of federal public lands, saying there are “no bad ideas.”
Chmelik said he too supports that but believes a transfer is the answer. He said his county could have had $92 million for schools and roads if the federal forest land that burned in the last fire season had been logged. “We’re talking real dollars here,” he said.
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