There is no better place to live, work and raise a family than Idaho. As a proud Idaho native who believes, promotes and lives our conservative ideals, I have known this my whole life. Now others from all over the country are discovering what we’ve always known. We are seeing unprecedented population growth as individuals and families move to all corners of our state. While we grow, we need to make sure we don’t lose what has made us the great state we are.
My great grandfather homesteaded in the Oakley Basin in the 1870s and began our family ranching tradition. It wasn’t until two decades later that Idaho even became a state. I have heard endless stories about the changes that took place during the Bedke family’s first hundred years in Idaho, and I know firsthand the changes that have happened in my lifetime. Our population has grown from tens of thousands to more than 1.8 million today. The key industries of our past — agriculture, mining and lumber — have expanded to include energy, machinery, technology and aerospace. Modern irrigation has changed our landscape from wild rivers surrounded by desert to 3.3 million acres of fertile farm ground. Idaho education has matured from a handful of school districts into a framework that serves more than 300,000 students. Our transportation system has developed from a web of scattered primitive roads into 50,000 miles of streets and highways. I’m proud of what we were, and what we’ve become, because while so much has changed, our core values have not.
Those who came before us were hardworking men and women willing to make a brighter future for themselves and their families. They knew that Idaho was a place where their efforts would create rich returns and incredible opportunities for themselves and the state. I come from that same legacy of hard work, of never quitting until the job is done, where the phrase, “bring a lunch and a flashlight, we’ll be out until we’re finished” was commonly used.
As we celebrate Idaho’s 131st birthday, we are in the midst of even more incredible change. We are one of the fastest-growing states in the union and we don’t see that slowing down. We need smart growth that pays for itself. Just this year, we passed a record-setting tax cut, adopted a strategic transportation plan and invested even more into education. While we need to keep pace with increasing demands on our resources, I promise you that I will keep leading the way on conservative economic, tax, transportation and education policies that will ensure our success for years to come.
Idaho is at a crossroads, and we must not let our critical values be compromised as we move into the future. As families make their way here, we must honor the legacy of so many hard-working Idahoans who came before us. We need to continue our work to maintain limited regulation, vast economic opportunity, and breathtaking outdoor experiences while supporting the solid family values that have made it all possible. Let’s make sure our grandchildren — and their grandchildren — will inherit the same great state we inherited, as they celebrate her birthday in the future. Happy birthday, Idaho!
Scott Bedke is Speaker of the House and a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.