Legislative Update –


Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers

reporting to you prior to the 2019 Legislative

General Session, which begins Jan. 8.

On Dec. 10 through Dec. 14, the Appropriations

Committee met to review state agency

requests for a supplemental budget. Last

winter’s session was a budget session year,

which means we reviewed the governor’s

budget, and then finalized a budget for fiscal

years 2019 and 2020.

However, there is a process by which the

governor can make supplemental budget requests

during the non-budget general session.

During the last supplemental budget process

in 2017 for example, the governor and the

Legislature used the Supplemental Budget

process to cut budgets, due to reduced revenues.

During the same week, the Joint Appropriations

Committee (JAC), of which I am a

member, interviewed state agencies and the

Governor’s Office about their current supplemental

requests. In fact, the Department of

Health and the Department of Family Services

had to come back before JAC and ask

for their second year of funding, because JAC

had withheld those dollars wanting to get a

better grasp on the costs of those two agencies.

We had appropriated the full two years

of the money for these agencies last session,

but held the money for the second year in a

separate account.

The governor made a supplemental request

for an additional $148.5 million for

the 2019/2020 budget based upon an October

projection of the state’s revenues, which

showed a significant rise in revenues. Those

projections were made when the price of

oil was on the rise, but oil prices have now

fallen. The Consensus Revenue Estimating

Group will be releasing more data in early

January, which will give the Legislature a

current snapshot as well as another projection

of future revenues. Remember, we budget

based upon projections of Wyoming’s

revenues.

Gov. Matt Mead requested an additional

$4 million for the Department of Health, $2

million for the Department of Corrections,

$2.5 million for the Department of Tourism,

$3.5 million for the Department of Revenue,

and a little more than a half a million for other

state agencies.

The governor recommended an additional

$15.5 million for the University of Wyoming,

with $10 million of that being for a matching

scholarship fund. He also recommended

expenditures of $25.7 million for state capital

construction projects, including several

new community college buildings. The fire

season last year was robust, as we know, and

the governor had to drain the fire suppression

account, so he is requesting a refuel of that

account to the tune of $15 million. He also

wants to put another $5 million into the Wildlife

and Natural Resource Trust Fund Corpus,

which supports a myriad of good wildlife

projects around the state. The Wildlife and

Natural Resource Trust Fund spends only the

investment income off its permanent account.

Three big requests from the governor are

likely inflation-related, as he is requesting an

additional $25 million for local government,

$15.6 million for pay raises for state employees,

and $19 million for an inflationary

adjustment for Kindergarten through grades

12 education. He is also requesting $30 million

for a Governor’s Emergency Operations

account, which will be used for emergencies

such as natural disasters or moving prisoners

out-of-state due to overcrowding. I think this

request will be a tough sell in the Legislature.

The Legislature will review the governor’s

request, and will bring its own priorities into

the budget.

On Jan. 7, Governor-elect Mark Gordon

will be sworn into office, and on Jan. 8 legislators

will be sworn into office. Gov. Gordon

will likely have some budget priorities of his

own, which will be presented to the Legislature

in the form of governor’s letters. We will

take action on each letter he submits, whether

to agree, modify or deny those requests. The

Governor-elect has a disadvantage in the budgeting

process, as Gov. Mead is the one who

created the Supplemental Budget presented

to the Legislature. I have not been through a

governor transition while in the Legislature,

so it will be interesting to participate in the

process. I believe Gov.-elect Gordon will do

an admirable job as our next governor, because

he did a very good job as our previous

state treasurer.

I would like to thank Gov. Mead for his

eight years of service to Wyoming. I believe

he was a great advocate for those of us who

live, work and recreate on federal lands. He

grew up in Teton County, where less than 10

percent of the land is in private ownership.

I believe he worked tirelessly with the federal

government to ensure that the custom,

culture and economy of Wyoming would be

preserved. He was not afraid to work with

the federal government on important issues

or to sue the federal government when he felt

Wyoming had been wronged. Mead was a

thoughtful, intelligent governor, and we will

miss him.

I can be reached at [email protected]

com or at 307-360-7060. Thank you.

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