Wyoming Liberty Group
State revenues are declining dramatically and are expected to continue to decline. That means big ticket items, even crucial ones like K-12 education, must feel the pinch. No one wants the quality of education in Wyoming to drop, but the spending on it must decrease. Why? The Consensus Revenue Estimating Group (CREG) projected in January that total minerals distributions in the five-year period 2016-2020 would be 29 percent or some $2.6 billion less than in the five years 2011-15. That will require real efficiencies and they can only be found where real dollars are being spent.
After months of review and mammoth change, the Wyoming legislature sent Governor Mead’s budget back to him for his signature. When the governor sent it back – signed – it had more line item vetoes than ever before.
For four years, supporters of Medicaid expansion urged our elected representatives to permanently commit Wyoming to this entitlement program. And for the fourth year in a row, Wyoming’s Joint Appropriations Committee, or JAC, responded with a resounding “No.”
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.
Charlie Katebi and John Birbari discuss the Joint Appropriations Committee’s decision to reject Medicaid expansion, and what it means for patients and taxpayers.
The director of Wyoming’s Department of Health, Tom Forslund, recently sat down before the Joint Appropriations Committee (JAC) to make his plea for more spending. The biggest item by far on the agency’s wish list was Medicaid Expansion, costing a whopping $268 million. How did he try selling such an expensive line item to the JAC? He claimed Medicaid Expansion would actually save Wyoming money.
Courage is grace under pressure.
The Joint Appropriation Committee adroitly handled the $222 million deficit that now exists in the 2015-16 budget and Governor Mead’s $167 million request for additional spending. The JAC rejected a rainy day fund raid and reined in Gov. Mead’s spending blowout, leaving almost $300 million in spending where it belongs – contingent on actually receiving the funds. This is the first step in piercing Wyoming’s budget bloated by 10-years of now-evaporating mineral tax windfalls.