Members of Wyoming's Republican leadership raved about the legislative session that wrapped up Thursday, praising the state budget and lawmakers' support of business. The GOP leaders said the budget will do a lot for the state, but they noted that they were also able to put a lot into savings. Although the Senate Appropriations Committee was criticized for focusing too much on saving, Chairman Eli Bebout says in fact they probably spent too much. He says the energy industry could face tough times in Wyoming and it's important to be prepared.
"When I talk about saving, I'm the kind of guy that really looks to the future and I've been through the tough times, not only as a businessman in Wyoming, but also as a member of the legislature when we really were broke,” Bebout says. “And to me if we are going err on the side of how we plan for the future, I'm one that says spend less now, save more, and build for the future."
Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau said while the legislature spent a lot of money helping the energy industry, those industries are critical to the state's future.
Members of Wyoming's Democratic Party also thought the session was successful, but had some lingering concerns. Senate Minority Leader Chris Rothfuss says the biggest disappointment was the failure to pass a bill that would expand Medicaid in the state even though an amendment was added to the budget bill to allow state officials to negotiate for a Wyoming-specific plan.
"So there's hope, but that is certainly not satisfactory in my view that we are going to leave those people uncovered in the year ahead," Rothfuss says.
As for the budget, House Minority Leader Mary Throne says that the legislature did not provide adequate raises for public employees and put too much into savings.
"In my mind it’s in some ways a timid and a fearful budget as opposed to a broad vision for the future. And it is a budget that is not centered as much as it could be on people."