The Wyoming House of Representatives and the Wyoming Senate have both passed their respective versions of the budget bill. The two bodies will now swap bills for consideration before a conference committee meets to select one final bill to adopt.
The Senate’s version cuts $91 million from public education funding, marking the largest difference between the two different versions.
Speaker of the House Steve Harshman is a school teacher in Casper, but Jackson Representative Andy Schwartz said that’s not why the House took a less severe approach to K-12 cuts.
"He is the Speaker, but I think it was the will of the body as well," Schwartz said. "I think there was 31 at least that felt that K-12 is critical to the future of Wyoming and we didn’t want to cut. I mean, we’re cutting it, but we wanted to preserve it as much as possible given our budget shortfall at the moment."
Schwartz said the conference committee will have a lot of work to do.
"We’re talking about a negotiation between essentially two bodies that are pretty far apart at the moment," Schwartz said. "The two big things are the education bill and the budget, and the differences are tens of millions of dollars. We’ll see. I mean, of course I think the House should prevail, because I think our budget is better, and certainly less draconian."
The Senate’s bill also includes amendments to cut some state employees’ salaries by 2 percent and to restrict school districts from using state funds to sue the state over education funding. The House considered similar amendments but both failed. The conference committee will meet once both bodies have considered the many amendments to each bill.