The Wyoming legislative session is underway and 24 new legislators enjoyed their first week in office. With such high turnover it wouldn’t be a surprise if some veteran lawmakers weren’t just a bit leery having so many freshmen joining the ranks, but House Majority Leader David Miller said it’s a good time for new ideas.
“New faces are energizing and exciting, it’s nice for the new ideas that are coming in the new blood is going to help all of us. Because you know individually none of us have all the answers, it takes a team effort and the new blood does energize us in the House and the Senate.”
The majority of new members actually come from Cheyenne where they saw state government and the nearby University of Wyoming suffer roughly 250 million dollars in cuts. One of those Cheyenne lawmakers is Republican Senator Affie Ellis. Ellis was a legislative intern in the 1990’s and has worked as a lobbyist, but as a legislator she admits there is a lot to learn.
“Well, being a new member I definitely want to get my feet under me and make sure I understand the complex dynamics or where our revenue streams actually come from and how we are spending those dollars. But there is no doubt we’ve got to put our best ideas forward to define some solutions.”
Another Cheyenne Senator who’s watched the legislature with a lobbyist badge is Anthony Bouchard. He said he comes to the legislature with an open mind about how to solve such complex issues as K through 12 education funding. But Bouchard has been concerned about spending in recent years. The governor says the state has endured massive budget cuts and that legislators shouldn’t cut the budget further and should consider using rainy day funds. Bouchard said he doesn’t agree.
“You know I don’t think so, we are getting to the end here. Obviously we can pull money out of rainy day but we don’t want to keep us in a situation where we use that money up in four years.”
Cody Representative Scott Court nervously said that he’s still feeling his way through some of the key issues. When it comes to budget reductions he’s non-committal.
“You know that’s a good question, that’s a tough, tough, situation right now and again I’m new and it’s a learning experience, but it’ll be interesting because we do have a shortfall, so it will take a lot of work. “
But for Casper Representative Debbie Bovee, a Democrat, the answer is easy.
“I am very reluctant to do more cuts. I have seen how harmful the cuts are to some of our people most in need…to talk me into any more cuts you are gonna have to show me it’s not gonna hurt our people anymore.”
Bovee is a retired school teacher who admits she is very worried what the legislature might do to education, yet at the same time she believes the majority of lawmakers are committed to an excellent education system.
Fellow Democrat Liisa Anselmi-Dalton is excited about taking on these challenging issues in the Senate. She is concerned about cutting education funding, but she’s also not a fan of raising taxes. She’s one of the few who’s optimistic that Wyoming’s revenue picture may turn around.
“Prices are picking up in gas and oil, so we hope we can see a turnaround with maybe the decreased regulations through the Trump administration. That might help Wyoming. So I think that’s an optimistic viewpoint, so my goal would be to just try to weather the storm. “
Anselmi-Dalton, Ellis, and Bouchard all say that they favor proposals to do what it takes to diversify Wyoming’s economy.