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Lawmakers come to Blackfoot for Lincoln Day dinner

On Saturday, the Bingham County Republican party held a luncheon in honor of Lincoln Day. Local lawmakers from Idaho were there, including Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Congressman Mike Simpson.

With President Donald Trump’s recent release of his proposed budget for 2018, it’s left many people worried about its impacts.

We asked Congressman Simpson his thoughts on some of Trump’s budget.

Under the budget, some of the departments taking a financial hit are the Environmental Protection Agency, which will drop 31 percent for funding. Then there’s the Dept. of Labor dropping 20 percent and the Dept. of Energy dropping six. The proposal also aims to completely eliminate all funding for several programs, including the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Simpson said several of those programs and departments in Trump’s budget affect Idaho directly.

“Certainly it’s a concern to me,” Simpson said. “When you look at some of the small agencies that don’t cost hardly anything at the federal level, they provide a great benefit throughout rural Idaho and so we will take a very close look at these programs and if there’s a way to do things better, we’re all for that.”

Simpson said he is also up in the air about Trump’s health care plan. He said there will be several changes to it before it comes to the floor so Simpson wants to see what those changes are before he takes a stance on it. He said, right now, there are some concerning things about it. He is worried about the impact it will have on senior citizens, particularly those with low income. He’s also worried how it will affect those who depend on Medicaid.

He said there is an ideal system for health care, but it’s tough to get to that point.

“What we want to do is take away the mandated government healthcare and that it has to be a government healthcare insurance approved plan that you buy and stuff,” he said. “And go to a more market-oriented system where healthcare is accessible and affordable to everyone – whether they choose to buy it or not is up to individuals- that’s called freedom. But it is a difficult, ugly process to get there.”

Simpson said when it comes to health care, or the budget, there is one thing to remember.

“Ultimately, the President’s recommendation is just a recommendation,” he said.

He said Congress makes the final determinations and they will look at all sides. He said they will look at each individual program and department and determine which of Trump’s policies do and do not work.

Simpson said though he does have a few reservations, overall, he feels Trump’s first 100 days weren’t bad.

“I actually think policy-wise he’s done a good job,” he said. “I agree with a lot of the things he’s doing. I like the people that he’s put in place for the most part. I’m a little concerned about some of the extraneous stuff – the tweeting and stuff that actually is a distraction for the policy we want to do.”

At the luncheon, Lt. Gov. Brad Little also spoke about the positive economic benefits of Southeastern Idaho.

We asked him what the state is doing to fix the state’s biggest problem right now – flooding.

Little said the state is assessing all of the counties who have declared a disaster. When assessments are done, the state can then file for a federal disaster to bring in federal aid and additional funding.

Little said there are about 30 counties state-wide that have declared a state of disaster.

He said they are working to do all they can to help with cleanup. He said the state has about $50 million in saved funding from 2016 that the state will use to help counties and match federal funding.

“The number one thing in one of these disasters is the safety of our citizens,” Little said. “The number two thing is to make sure the roads are open so that emergency services can flow. And then we want to try and restore the infrastructure that was lost either from the snow or the flooding.”

He said there is a lot of roadwork and repairs that need to be done, especially on the interstate. He said that is a big topic of discussion in the legislature right now and something they are continuing to work on.

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