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Fri March 7, 2014
Wyo. Delegation Says Obama’s Budget Bad for State
This week President Barack Obama unveiled his budget, which the Wyoming congressional delegation says would cripple the state's economy. Matt Laslo has the details from Washington.
MATT LASLO: Republicans in Congress fought tooth and nail in one of the last spending battles to get deep spending cuts to most every federal program, save the military. The president's budget flips that equation basically on it's head. He's calling for shrinking the number of U-S combat troops while increasing funding for his domestic priorities, including everything from education to his signature healthcare law.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: At a time when our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years, we've got to decide if we're going to keep squeezing the middle class or if we're going to continue to reduce the deficits responsibly, while taking steps to grow and strengthen the middle class.
LASLO: Wyoming Republicans are rejecting the budget out of hand. Senator John Barrasso says the president only wants spending increases in order to expand the role of Washington in people's lives.
JOHN BARRASSO: The president likes his budget and his government super-sized. That's what we see with the things that he's proposed in there.
LASLO: In this election year Barrasso says its evident the White House laid out a campaign document that has no chance of being implemented.
BARRASSO: To me, the budget is not going to pass. Even the Democrats have said that. I'm not sure the Democrats are even going to vote for it.
LASLO: With the nation's debt sitting at more than seventeen trillion dollars Barrasso says he wishes the president had focused on long term solutions.
LASLO: The president removed an entitlement reform proposal that Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis liked. Called Chained CPI - it saves billions by readjusting how seniors social security payments are calculated.
CYNTHIA LUMMIS: I was very pleased a year ago that the president saw that it is important to use proper accounting methods to measure inflation in this country.
LASLO: Lummis says last year the president showed courage by confronting his liberal base with that proposed reform to entitlements - that's why she's disappointed he changed his stance during this election year.
LUMMIS: And then the president thereby backing away as well is a reflection of how jittery Democrats are right now.
LASLO: As you might expect, Democrats see it quite differently. Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly says the president would be foolish to offer the same proposal as an olive branch again – because Republicans never offered anything in return for it.
GERRY CONNOLLY: He did have the chained CPI in the last budget. Look where it got him? It sort of alienated the Democratic base and got him nothing with the Republican base. And so taking it off the table is a very logical response to the lack of a response by the Republican majority.
LASLO: Then there's energy policy. The president is once again asking to increase funding for the Environmental Protection Agency.
OBAMA: And we know that future generations will continue to deal with the effects of a warming planet. So this budget proposes a smarter way to address the costs of wildfires. And it includes over $1 billion in new funding for new technologies to help communities prepare for changing climate today, and set up incentives to build smarter and more resilient infrastructure.
LASLO: Lummis says the relentless effort to increase regulations by this White House shows a disregard for energy states like Wyoming.
LUMMIS: It would shackle our region. It's heavy emphasis on environmental regulation, on climate change funding, in a way that clamps down on the manner in which we produce energy. It would be quite devastating.
LASLO: Lummis says the scheduled closing of the Simpson Unit at the Wayodak power plant in Gillette is an example of the impact the new budget would have on the state.
LUMMIS: 10 full years before its useful life ends all because of federal regulations. That is going to increase the price of electricity for its customers and it is going to create potentials for electricity shortages.That's not smart.
LASLO: Each year Congress receives the White House budget and then lawmakers lay out their own budget priorities. As far as Wyoming lawmakers are concerned this year's budget is dead on arrival.
For Wyoming Public Radio, I’m Matt Laslo in Washington.