Part of a series on candidates running for county and state elected offices.
State Rep. Steve Miller, R-Fairfield, is hoping for another go in the Legislature come January. Challenger Dick Fosbury is vying for Miller’s District 26-A seat on the Democratic ticket. District 26 encompasses Blaine, Camas, Lincoln and Gooding counties.
Miller, 64, was born in Wendell and comes from a long line of Idahoan homesteaders. He has a lengthy public service résumé, including Camas County commissioner, Camas County Planning and Zoning commissioner and National Association of Conservation Districts officer and representative. Miller and his family own and manage a ranch east of Fairfield. He’s been the District 26-A state representative to the Legislature since 2012.
Miller said his six years as Camas County commissioner opened his eyes to the real-life application of statewide legislation and inspired him to seek higher government positions.
Miller’s ideas for the upcoming legislative session focus on economic revitalization and educational initiatives. In an interview, he spoke of the “brain drain” statewide in which skilled Idaho laborers take the expertise they mastered in Idaho and vie for out-of-state jobs.
“We’re working hard to be able to get kids into areas where they can come back and work in Idaho,” he said.
Career counseling and focused curriculums in Idaho schools, Miller said, can point Idaho students in the right vocational direction early on.
Miller said creating a vital workforce in Idaho means enticing new businesses that need a strong labor force. He cited the Chobani Yogurt manufacturing plant in Twin Falls as an example of an Idaho success story. The million-square-foot plant, which opened in 2012, is the world’s largest yogurt manufacturing center to date, according to the Chobani website.
“The city and county of Twin Falls really got together and cut the red tape,” Miller said, in reference to the speedy plant construction—the facility was completed in less than a year.
Miller pointed to positive economic changes within the Legislature this past session, including the Idaho Reimbursement Incentive Act. Beginning July 1, the act creates a refundable tax credit for new and existing businesses that agree to take on more employees.
Miller said that forging connections between Idaho students and the workforce is an important legislative step. Education funding, which was bumped back up to 2008 levels this past legislative session, should continue to be increased as the economy improves, he said.
“We’re making progress on getting our students educated to degrees and abilities that meet the need of business and workforce [demands],” Miller said. “Software engineers are at a high demand in Idaho. Part of the process is just letting kids know what’s available.”
Regarding Gov. Butch Otter’s desire to explore the acquisition of federal land in the state, Miller said he doesn’t see that happening anytime soon, though he said an increased state role in managing the land is a possibility worth exploring. He said unmanaged federal lands present a fire hazard, and state management could clean up acreage, lessen the brushfire risk and become an economic opportunity in terms of timber harvest.
“State lands have less fires than [those that are federally managed],” Miller said.
Miller said last year’s fires had a negative effect on streams and fisheries in terms of erosion, and proper forestry management practices could curb future hazards.
Miller is also on board with Otter’s Wolf Depredation Control Board. He said the federal government “abandoned” its promise to control the wolf population when gray wolves were reintroduced to Idaho in the mid-1990s.
“When you get a species that has no natural predator, it’ll just take over things,” he said.
Miller advocates an alternative to the Affordable Care Act, which he said “turned things upside-down in terms of insurance.”