Wyoming Legislature update – Feb. 8, 2016
by Albert Sommers, House District 20 Representative
February 9, 2016
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from the Jonah Building in Cheyenne on Monday, Feb. 8, the first day of the legislative session. We are in the Jonah Building, because the capitol is being renovated. If you come to Cheyenne, and don’t know where we are meeting, please contact me. Or go online for a very helpful booklet:
We held a joint session of the Legislature in the morning, where we received Governor Mead’s State-of-the-State message. Chief Justice Burke of the Wyoming Supreme Court provided the State-of-the-Court message.
Governor Mead reported Wyoming remains strong, in spite of the great economic challenges that lie before us. He stated the fiscal conservative nature of Wyoming has prepared us for these times ahead, because we have responsibly saved billions of dollars. He stated Wyoming has the largest rainy day account in the nation, based upon our population, and the third largest in nation all together. The PEW Charitable Trusts, invited to provide input on our rainy day account, has held that our number one priority should be to develop a spending policy for the rainy day account. When is it raining in Wyoming? Is it when our revenues have dropped by 10 percent, 30 percent, or perhaps 50 percent? This policy decision, I believe, has been delayed long enough. We need to have long term planning for major declines in revenue, and a spending policy for our rainy day account that is transparent and understandable by the public.
The Governor stated that reducing our budget is a reality we must accept, and I agree with his conclusion. More than $700 million in reduced revenue for our budget period will demand some belt tightening, but we are not broke. The Governor reminded us that the citizens of Wyoming do not distinguish between different revenue streams, savings accounts, or the difference between one-time and ongoing expenditures. All of this money belongs to the people of Wyoming. To quote Governor Mead: "the citizens will not judge our actions based upon our definitions but on how we spend their money or cut services."So what are our priorities, and will we spend money on capital construction projects or on important programs affecting all citizens in Wyoming, like K12 education or early childhood learning? I always enjoy the Governor’s recognition of everyday people in Wyoming who make a difference in our communities, because it is a good reminder of why we are down here doing the people’s work.
In the afternoon we began to work bills. Several committee bills, which had been developed all summer, were defeated by the body. Two insurance industry bills were defeated on the floor of the House, despite the fact they are needed to maintain Wyoming’s accreditation.
Remember, if you have questions or comments, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a busy time, so if I do not respond in a timely manner, please follow up with a second e-mail.