Top Stories February 11, 2020

House & Senate Leadership Kick Off Budget Session

by Jackson Hole Radio News
Leadership from the Wyoming House of Representatives and Senate kicked-off the 2020 Budget Session today with a press conference focused on the budget, government transparency, energy development, reducing costs of healthcare and improving the lives of Wyoming citizens, families and businesses.

Senate President Drew Perkins, House Speaker Steve Harshman, Senate Majority Floor Leader Dan Dockstader, House Majority Floor Leader Eric Barlow and House Majority Whip Tyler Lindholm participated in the press conference along with House Minority Leader Cathy Connolly and Senate Minority Leader Chris Rothfuss.

“After a four year rehabilitation project that caused the State Legislature to conduct business in the Jonah Business Center, it is great to be back home,” said Senator Perkins. “In addition to the incredible restoration work, the Capitol now provides greatly improved access to both the public and media. From expanded committee rooms to accommodate the public and improved audio livestreaming capabilities to state-of-the-art audio visual set-ups, the renovated Capitol represents the best of Wyoming’s history and future.”
Senator Perkins noted the physical Capitol was not the only place where state government has seen improved transparency and modernization. He said this year Wyoming has “perhaps the most transparent budget process in Wyoming history,” citing the legislature’s revised Budget Fiscal Data Book, Governor Gordon’s ‘Wyoming Sense’ website, and State Auditor Kristi Racines WyOpen.gov – all digital tools aimed at ensuring Wyoming citizens know how and where their tax dollars are spent.

“Being back in the Capitol, is to return to our roots and tackle the hard work ahead of us,” said Speaker Harshman. “This is the People’s House – a place where lawmakers and citizens from every corner of Wyoming can come, debate ideas and work towards solutions. We have scheduled the longest Budget Session in state history this year, giving both deliberative bodies time to work together – along with the Governor – on the biennial budget and for the betterment of Wyoming.”

During the press conference, Speaker Harshman took the opportunity to discuss the legislature’s commitment to deliver a fiscally responsible Budget that meets the essential needs of Wyoming communities, schools and families while reflecting the realities of reduced revenue streams projected into the future. He noted the ‘seismic shift’ the state is facing in terms of energy production, the state’s largest revenue drivers and employers, and that revenue streams will likely continue to be volatile into the foreseeable future. Speaker Harshman cited the legislature’s work to keep all the fiscal tools available to them on the table, which includes sizable investment streams that have been able to pay about 1/5 of the state’s bills in recent years.

“When we had a surplus, we saved, we built the Rainy Day Fund, the Hathaway Scholarship, the Wildlife Trust Fund, invested in infrastructure, invested in our schools and communities. But, most of all, we saved, and the savings and investment of past structural surpluses have saved us,” said Speaker Harshman. “There’s no question we have some tough decisions to make this Budget Session, but we are committed to passing a fiscally responsible Budget that ensures we can continue our Wyoming way of life and uphold our standard of living.”

Leadership also discussed efforts to aid our bedrock mineral industries while putting the state in the driver’s seat in leading the development and implementation of clean coal technologies. Other bills the legislature is considering this session to promote the energy sector and its workers include those to support the exportation of mineral resources, incentivize innovative mineral exploration, create a framework for the responsible development of solar energy and support and bolster Wyoming’s uranium industry. In addition, the Legislature will be considering important legislation to aid Wyoming workers who have been impacted by coal bankruptcies and closures.

This session, legislators will also consider a slew of bills aimed at reducing the cost of prescription drugs and improving access to healthcare, justice reform, supporting Wyoming’s agriculture, tourism and burgeoning technology economies, and helping small businesses compete in the global economy.