Wyoming Liberty Group
The State Building Commission has a 100-year tradition of managing state buildings, and reviewing and approving construction budgets. It includes the five elected officials, the Governor, Secretary of State, Auditor, Treasurer and Superintendent of Public Instruction. With budget responsibility, you might think it plays a part in the Capitol Square Project fiasco, but no. A committee dominated by the legislature, the Capitol Oversight Group, took over that project in 2014, and today, the project scope and costs are spiraling out of control.
Maureen Bader and Reece Monaco from KFBC in Cheyenne discuss the April 2016 CREG update and the need for fiscally responsible leadership in Wyoming. Maureen gave an overview of the Capitol Square Project, the budget overruns and the battle between Senator Phil Nicholas and Secretary of State Ed Murray on whose priorities will reign supreme.
Who knew a State Building Commission (SBC) meeting could include a discussion that perhaps surpassed the limit of orderly conduct? During a presentation on space allocation, a fiery exchange between Senator Phil Nicholas and Secretary of State Ed Murray made it clear that a battle may be brewing over renovation priorities at the Wyoming Capitol. This clash also indicates it may not be so easy for a certain senator to shift the blame for the cost overruns to someone else.
Sultan of the Taj Mahal Reigned In
The Taj Mahal was lavishly constructed as a mausoleum to bury the favorite wife of a Sultan.
In a similarly excessive approach, some senators with a “spare no expense” mindset are working to return the Wyoming Capitol to its former historic glory. Undeterred by the fiscal crisis, one senate visionary advocated adding a $3 million center for tourists at the Capitol. With the Capitol budget on the brink of the $300 million line in the sand set by Governor Mead, this senate visionary sought to bury this $3 million cost overrun in another budget.
Everybody wants the one percent
Did you know the State of Wyoming has more than one fund with handy cash ready for the taking? While most people think of the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account (LSRA) as the rainy day fund, the state has hundreds of spend-ready funds. One of those, the Strategic Investment and Project Account (SIPA), could act as the source of funds for some of the capital construction projects legislators still want to fund, even as state revenue plummets.
The attempt to hide the Capitol Renovation cost overrun in another agency budget and fund that overrun with funds destined to demolish a sinking prison was foiled by the State senate and this effort was supported by the House appropriations committee.
The Veil of Secrecy is Drawn
When visions of Taj Mahals at the Wyoming Capitol are coupled with state revenues tumbling into the abyss, count on some Wyoming legislators to figure out how to keep on spending. One creative solution is to hide escalating costs in other agency budgets. But burying spending takes the Capitol renovation project in the wrong direction. Instead of creating a legacy debt and higher taxes, the Capitol project must remain transparent and be brought back to a basic renovation, one that Wyoming taxpayers can afford.