By Karla Pomeroy
Editor 

Budget differences could impact small communities

 

February 27, 2020



By KARLA POMEROY

WORLAND — Both the House and Senate passed the 2020 budget bill last week with issues going to consensus committee this week. Rep. Mike Greear said one of the issues is regarding allocation on mineral royalty grants.

He said, “We passed the House version of the Budget late Friday night. Overall, it is a good budget. As is usually the case there are some good appropriations and some questionable appropriations.

The House and Senate ended up around $6 million apart. Most of that differential is a result of how the house treated the Joint Appropriation Committee’s (JAC) allocation of mineral royalty grants (MRGs).”

He explained that MRGs are the funds that the State Loan and Investment Board uses to fund many of the projects in small towns, such as Worland and Ten Sleep, to repair roads, sewer projects and similar infrastructure projects.

“These grants have been very beneficial to Washakie County in the past. In the initial JAC budget $13 million of MRG was diverted to the Business Council. On second reading a few of us legislators from smaller districts put $10 million back to the SLIB for traditional use and then back filled the WBC. The Senate did not take that step to protect smaller districts.”


Sen. Wyatt Agar (R-Thermopolis), who is on the JAC, is also on the negotiating team from the two chambers. He said in a weekly update that the team began meeting this week to try to iron out the differences between the two budget bills.

“As you can imagine with the structural deficit we face there was some objections to the budget on the floor. However, the Appropriations Committee removed over $120,000,000 out of the Governor’s budget requests, once the bill hit the floor the Senate then made more finite reductions.”

Other major bills that passed out of the Senate last week are SF 108 Public Employees Retirement, which was endorsed by the Public Employees Union; and SF 124 Early Retirement Discount Factor.

“Both bills seek to make our retirement accounts actuarily sound,” Agar said.

For more on the budget see the story on A9.

STUDENT LEARNER BILL

In other legislative news, Greear reported that the House Education Committee killed House Bill 242, the Greear-sponsored “Student Learner” bill.

Wyoming Sugar and Washakie County School District No. 1 set up an internship program last year that is working well so Greear brought a bill to help other companies and school districts to do the same.

The bill also established a framework for the high school interns to receive college credit.

“The bill was wildly popular with industry, who understand the real need for a trained workforce, but it ran into resistance as some felt it overlapped or ‘stepped on the toes’ of other programs, Greear said. “It did not sit well with me as last year I could not find a single program that was any help.”

Greear said he needs to take the issue away from education and bring it to the Minerals, Business and Economic Development, “where the committee members are more versed in the realities of business and industry.”  

Greear noted that Education Committee Chairman David Northrup (R-Powell) and Rep. Jamie Flitner (R-Greybull) did support the bill.

 
 

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