Wyoming Liberty Group

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JAC Reins In Supplemental Budget Blowout

The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things. Wyoming’s Joint Appropriations Committee (JAC) is talking about a time for spending caution—but it must do  more than hold steady. With falling oil prices and a rising deficit, the time has come to rein in government spending.

The JAC started to review Gov. Mead’s supplemental budget on January 21, 2015. JAC Chairman Senator Tony Ross set the tone when he said, “each and every budget item has a constituency, however there is not one dime we can spend here that isn’t one-time money. I am urging you to be cautious about what you spend and whether or not it is reoccurring because if it is—it will come back and double.”

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Squirreled Away Saving Sing a Siren’s Song

Like the beautiful voices of the Sirens of Greek mythology, large savings accounts are luring Wyoming’s ship of state to fiscal doom. The deficit in Wyoming’s traditional spending accounts has increased from a relatively miniscule $4.4 million to a whopping $217 million, for a total deficit of $222 million in Wyoming’s 2015-16 biennium budget. 

Has this deficit motivated Gov. Mead to call for lower spending? No. Instead of asking agencies to tighten their belts, or even reducing his own additional spending request of $156 million, the governor upped his supplemental by almost $10 million, leaving the state in a deficit position of $389 million for the biennium.

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Falling off the Fiscal Cliff

An early warning signal started blinking back in October 2014 to alert Wyomingites about the effect of falling minerals prices on the state budget. The blinking has now turned into a frenetic flashing. The October revenue shortfall of $4.4 million for the 2015-16 budget now sits at  $222 million. As a result, legislators must not only reject new spending that would add to this deficit, they must cut the current budgets of state agencies.

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Amy Edmonds speaks with Gary Freeman on KGAB about a number of education bills on the docket at the legislature this session that will impact parent’s ability to direct their children’s education

Amy Edmonds speaks with Gary Freeman on KGAB about a number of education bills on the docket at the legislature this session that will impact parent’s ability to direct their children’s education. January 16, 2015 – KGAB

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Maureen Bader speaks with Gary Freeman on KGAB about about the upcoming legislative session and the governor’s attempt to raid the rainy day fund to pay for his spending party

Maureen Bader speaks with Gary Freeman on KGAB about about the upcoming legislative session and the governor’s attempt to raid the rainy day fund to pay for his spending party. January 2, 2015 – KGAB

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Budget Prioritization and the Gas Tax Grab

After lobbying for and receiving a fuel tax increase in 2013, Wyoming’s Department of Transportation (WyDot) is asking for more money in its 2015 Supplemental Budget. Instead of contemplating a rainy day fund raid as Gov. Mead has suggested or a new gas tax grab, the Joint Appropriations Committee (JAC) told WyDot to find the money by prioritizing within its existing budget, by using, for example, its 2013 fuel tax bonanza. The JAC must do the same for the other state agencies, and in particular, State Parks and Cultural Resources (SPCR), the agency that also received a cut of the gas tax grab.

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Raiding the Rainy Day Fund for Political Investments

Governor Mead’s supplemental budget presentation outlined the vast amount of money the state has squirrelled away in savings accounts. According to Gov. Mead, “These funds continue to grow and they return investment income to support ongoing operations.” So far so good, as saving to create a fund to generate income to live from is a time-honored form of investment. 

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