Wyoming Liberty Group
With no final design in sight and visions of palaces dancing in legislator’s heads, the Capitol reconstruction project is now $1 million over budget. St. Nicholas’s sleigh may be full of toys but what he seems to be leaving the people of Wyoming is a big bill, as the current cost overrun will no doubt be the first of many as the Capitol renovation project takes off.
With mineral tax revenue plummeting, the Wyoming government is madly conjuring up schemes to keep spending at all time highs. One boondoggle approved during the 2015 legislative session involves borrowing money to build a coal terminal on the West Coast to support Wyoming coal exports to Asia. But if the private sector is dropping out of these projects, perhaps forcing the people of Wyoming to go into debt to fund them is a bad idea. Here’s a thought; instead of dreaming up revenue generating schemes with little chance of success, Wyoming’s government should bring spending down to a level the people can afford to fund.
In Governor Mead’s 2015 supplemental budget, the governor called on the legislature to set up a reserve account for an industrial park, and the legislature complied with a $5 million appropriation. The idea comes from the Industrial Heartland in Alberta, Canada, an industrial park funded by the provincial and various local governments to attract oil and gas companies to the province. Although the governor has waxed eloquent on the Alberta government’s use of tax dollars to attract value-added oil and gas activity to the province to create jobs, the Industrial Heartland is but one example of a project financed by a government that lost its way, and has now paid the price at the polls.
Throughout the debate to expand Medicaid during the 2015 Legislative Session, opponents repeatedly claimed that the federal government couldn’t be trusted to keep its promise to cover 90 percent of Medicaid Expansion’s costs. So it should come as no surprise that the Obama Administration has now broached the idea of reneging on its existing financial promises. In a letter to the Deputy Secretary of Medicaid in Florida, the head of the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (or CMS) threatened to withhold funding to a Medicaid pilot program in the Sunshine State unless it expanded Medicaid. If successful, the federal government would have found a way to undermine the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision on Medicaid Expansion and foist a federal program that delivers woefully inferior healthcare onto millions more patients.
In the 2015 Wyoming Legislative Session, Senate File 14, or Senate Enrolled Act 1 (SEA 1), would have overhauled Wyoming’s drug forfeiture laws to require a felony conviction before alleged drug property (cash, cars, firearms and the like) could be permanently taken by the state. The bill passed the Wyoming Legislature with an initial total vote of 80-9 between both houses before it was vetoed by Governor Mead, then failed to muster the requisite votes to override the veto.
On the day before April Fool’s Day, Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center buried any illusion that Medicaid Expansion will improve access to health care. In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court barred doctors, dentists and pharmacists from suing states for allegedly curtailing reimbursements for care they provide to Medicaid patients. Although the ruling doesn’t directly impact Medicaid’s promise to provide quality care for the poor, fulfilling that promise requires a wide and accessible network of physicians. By this metric, Medicaid hasn’t fulfilled its pledge for years and the Supreme Court just made it official.
Ever since David King sued the federal government for illegally subsidizing health insurance payments on federal exchanges, governors in states with federal exchanges have scrambled to make contingency plans. Reactions ranged from Bobby Jindal of Louisiana consulting Congressional leaders on passing an alternative to Obamacare, to Governor Snyder of Michigan demanding his state’s legislature create a state-run insurance exchange in order to continue receiving federal insurance support. Fortunately, Congress is crafting contingency plans to offer immediate relief for millions of individuals currently receiving subsidies. These Congressional plans would grant states flexibility to determine the best insurance policies for their residents. This is an opportunity for Wyoming to make substantial health insurance reforms that lower premiums and expand coverage.