From the State House to Your House – Feb. 14

By Mark Semlek

Last week the Legislature reviewed and finalized the supplemental budget. After all the State Agencies had undergone a budget reduction exercise this past summer, it was unlikely that there would have been much interest in considering requests in the supplemental budget to add back to budgets that had been scrutinized in the summer interim. As a result, this was one on the lowest supplemental budgets that had been passed in many years and was certainly a reflection of the lower revenue that the State has to work with. That being said, we were able to continue with the funding for Pine Bark Beetle mitigation efforts in the Black Hills of Wyoming with a $2 million appropriation from the General Fund in the House. This will allow for the same dollar amount that we requested and received in the session last year. The appropriation will be split between the Department of Agriculture for use by the Crook and Weston County’s Weed and Pest District and the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust account and to administrated by the Natural Resource District in each County. The budget amendment in the Senate was somewhat different but I am fairly confident that the conference committee on the budget will likely retain the position that the same amount of funds will be available for the Pine Bark Beetle mitigation efforts.

House Bill 127, driver’s license-veterans designation, the idea came to me by a constituent request, will specify a procedure for placing a veteran designation on driver’s licenses and identification cards. The process, if passed by the Senate will streamline the certification by the Wyoming veterans’ commission that the applicant is an honorably discharged veteran of the armed forces of the United States. A qualifying veteran will have the designation in the form of a printed “V” on the driver’s license.

In other supplemental budget action last week, an additional $15 million was provided into the State’s fire suppression account; previous appropriations have provided $32 million into the account which makes the total available about $49 million for next season after a portion of this year’s total is used to pay for last year’s suppression costs. Last year’s fire suppression costs totaled about $42.5 million for the State’s share. The House also adopted a budget amendment to fund a $500,000 study that will evaluate the efficiency of the operations of the Department of Transportation A familiar comment of why some Legislators resisted the fuel tax increase was their lack of confidence that the Department was implementing all of the cost-saving capabilities that was available to them. The study should provide some information to refute or validate that concern.

Until next week,