Wyoming Liberty Group
Imagine you have ten accounts you allocate your paycheck to every month. At bill time, you take money from two of these accounts, call them your traditional accounts, to pay your bills. One day, your paycheck suddenly plunges and you don’t have enough flowing into these traditional accounts. No problem, you can just divert the flow from some other account into your traditional accounts and pay your bills that way. All appears good—but is it?
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. After the Wyoming legislature overwhelmingly rejected Medicaid expansion, its advocates returned to the drawing board to design another half-baked measure to help hospitals cope with the rising cost of uncompensated care. Senate File 145, otherwise known as the Uncompensated Care Bill, emerged as the alternative to Medicaid Expansion. And like Medicaid Expansion before it, the Uncompensated Care Bill is the latest quick fix that the legislature hopes will stop the bleeding, but fails to address the underlying symptoms.
Bills to hate and bills to love—this session had it all. With a large and growing budget deficit, the supplemental budget bill turned out better than expected. After the legislature bailed out Governor Mead’s deficit budget, it left a small budget surplus. However a large part of cash used to bail out the state’s deficit came from one-time funds. With dark clouds on the horizon for 2017-18, what might we expect for the next budget session?
“We need to look like we are doing something for that community.”
Wyoming Sen. Wasserberger, Joint Appropriations Committee, January 26, 2015
Facing declining mineral tax revenues, the desire to continue spending and the inability, so far, to raid the rainy day fund, Gov. Mead’s push to diversify the economy to create jobs and generate more tax revenue shifted into overdrive. His direction? The governor made yet another announcement about an investment by his chosen one – Microsoft’s data center. Yes, Microsoft is investing more in the state, but in exchange, the governor is doling out more corporate welfare. Corporate welfare is a costly way to appear to be doing something to diversify the economy to create jobs and increase tax revenue.
Reviewing how government taxes and spends, with an eye to doing less of both, is a good idea. But how to go about it? One option reviewed by the Wyoming legislature would have created a review called Vision 2020, but its ambitions focused on issues other than living within the means of taxpayers. After breezing through the senate revenue and appropriations committees and passing 25 to 5 in the senate, the house revenue committee killed the Vision 2020 bill with a 6 to 3 no vote. Had the goals of the task force focused on bringing the size of government in line with its falling cash flow instead of acting as a cover for the governor’s apparent desire to stream more money into the raidable rainy day fund, perhaps the bill’s proponents would have had better luck.