By Tyler Lindholm
The Wyoming legislature is officially at the crossover point and anything not heard in its house of origin is officially dead. Essentially? We just killed a lot of bills because we have the shortest session in the Nation, not a bad deal at all.
The unfortunate aspect of this situation is that a lot of good ideas die, but some ideas are not so good and will not die. The Cigarette Tax is one of those bills.
My colleagues and I killed this tax last week with a vote of 22-38, but a push from leadership to revive the bill was successful the following day with a vote of 31-29; political pressure proved to be the undoing of some of our newer members.
We cannot ignore the fact that much of our Government is solely dependent on mineral excise and work to make certain departments self-sufficient by minimizing their scope and creating a fee structure that actually pays for its purpose. As of right now we are all welfare recipients of minerals; with that revenue gone it’s a good opportunity to cut government waste and pay our own way.
However, raising taxes on arbitrary items such as alcohol or cigarettes is no way to balance our budget and it is not a dependable source of revenue that the state can or should depend on.
The Appropriations Committee has released the supplemental budget, although the term supplemental doesn’t quite seem appropriate. The supplementary budget bill aims to make equitable and reasonable reductions across all branches of government to address a $156 million shortfall in general government operations.
The bill’s reductions are in addition to net budget recommendations from Governor Matt Mead and the judicial branch to the Appropriations Committee of $245.2 million from General Funds. The bill also includes a reduction of 135 full time positions, 10 part time positions and a shift of authorization for 23 positions, resulting in additional savings of approximately $102 million in the next biennium.
Lastly, the budget bill implements a hard limit on increasing future full time positions and requires the Governor to identify 75 additional positions to eliminate. This reduction in the size of the executive branch would result in a potential savings of more than $10 million.
During the boom years, our governmental services grew to the scope of what can be compared to as a Cadillac plan. In order to not create new taxes and further burden the citizenry, we are busy pulling back the scope to what can be compared to as a pickup plan. It is not very flashy, but it is very functional and will get the job done.
As we face challenging times with diminished revenues, the Legislature must look for ways to tighten our belts while distributing spending reductions as equitably as possible. Realistically, we must also look to extend our savings into the future.
The good news? We have savings to help us weather the storm, thanks to those with the vision to see the need to save for the future. Other states have seen this day and for the most part they are all debtor states now.
Every year, they reach towards banking institutions and balance their budgets on the backs of another generation. Not Wyoming, we will not borrow on the dime of future generations.
“You must gain control over your money or the lack of it will forever control you”—Dave Ramsey.