Budget Session 2014 – - The Budget & State of the State
Well, we’re up and rolling today with the State of the State, State of the Judiciary, and the first day of bill introductions.
The legislature has cut spending the last few years – more than 6% last year – with the goal of having a smaller baseline budget since the long-term outlook for mineral revenues is questionable. Mineral revenues directly fund around 75% of our state budget and school budgets. We continue to aggressively fund into savings to increase the percentage of our budget that comes from income these funds generate. The governor recommended a mostly flat budget with modest increases, the most notable below.
The governor recommended a pay raise for state employees, who have not seen a raise in 4 years. We are beginning to have a high turnover of state employees, which costs the state more in the long-run than compensating and retaining the folks we have already trained and recruited.
Also recommended for increases are more money for the DD waiver program to reduce the wait list to 18 months, more money for resource centers for the elderly, increased funding for immunizations, and more funding for local governments. The governor has also proposed funding to continue the unified state network for connectivity. There was a massive effort last year for broadband expansion in Wyoming, resulting in a 700% increase in student access.
In the State of the State address, the governor mentioned success stories like our high rankings for business-friendly tax policies, our low ranking for unemployment, our low ranking for poverty, our high average of people with a high school diploma or better. In the last four years, we’ve increased our Permanent Mineral Trust Fund corpus from $5.3 Billion to $6.2 Billion. We have increased our rainy day fund by $600 Million for a total of $1.6 Billion, which is roughly our general fund spending for a year.
We were ranked #2 for emerging data center hubs, which is a real success story in the efforts to diversify our economy. Other efforts the governor has recommended funding to strengthen Wyoming business are increased funding to expand a market for tourism and a $15 Million test center for CO2 capture and sequestration and to develop a commercially viable market for CO2.
Last year, the legislature appropriated $15 Million and the governor just secured private financing to match that amount for a total of $30 Million for energy research at the University of Wyoming.
The governor re-stated his opposition to expand Medicaid, but there is a bill in the House and a different bill in the Senate to have some type of modified Medicaid expansion. I’ll post some information specifically on this issue later in the week.
We expect to deal with the budget bill in the legislature during the week of February 17.
Visit www.wyoleg.gov to look up the bills that have been filed for this session and where they stand. As always, feel free to email me at email@example.com with your thoughts and opinions. I read all of my emails, even though during the busy session I don’t always respond right away.