The Wyoming House and Senate have agreed to changes in the state budget bill. The bill gives public employees a roughly 2.4 percent pay hike, provides money for improvements at community colleges and the University of Wyoming, and $175 million for local governments. Senator Eli Bebout called it a responsible budget.
During final discussion of the State Budget Senator Charles Scott of Casper objected to an amendment that a conference committee added to the bill allowing Wyoming officials to negotiate with the federal government to develop a Wyoming specific Medicaid expansion plan.
That plan would then be presented to the legislature for further consideration. Scott fears that the Wyoming Department of Health will bring forward a costly plan, but other Senators say that if that happens, lawmakers will vote it down.
Senator Phil Nicholas of Laramie says while it's a contentious issue, the state is obligated to see what the federal government will do, but he says the state will only test the expansion plan for two years and it must be 100 percent federally funded.
"It will take a lot of stamina on all of our part to say we'll only do the wavier for the two years and it will require new legislation to go beyond that and if we don't see the cost savings, we won't do it," he said.
Scott said it will be difficult to get rid of the program and he predicted that it will require a lot of additional future spending. The Senate and House both approved the budget with the Medicaid expansion. It now heads to the governor for his consideration.