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Wyoming Governor Matt Mead told the state legislature that it needs to be proactive during these tough budget times, but not to prioritize savings over people.

During his annual State of the State message Mead expressed disappointment over a number of budget cuts made by the Joint Appropriations Committee in recent weeks.    

Governor Mead asked legislators to support Medicaid expansion in his biennial budget. That request was rejected which led to additional budget cuts. During his state of the state address he expressed concern about that.

Governor Matt Mead's 2016 State Of The State Address

Feb 8, 2016
Office of the Governor

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead delivered his State of the State address this morning before members of the Legislature in Cheyenne. 

 

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

Republican Liz Cheney has made it official, she is running to become Wyoming’s next U.S. Representative.

Cheney is running on a platform of overturning policies put in place by the Obama administration. Cheney said that includes what she calls the “war on coal”

White House

President Obama called for an overhaul of the nation’s energy system in his final State of the Union address. 

Obama criticized climate change deniers in the speech, saying it’s time to stop debating and start innovating. He praised investments in wind and solar energy and called for moving away from “dirty” energy sources.

“And that’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet,” he said.

Bob Beck

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead unveiled his proposed budget for the next two years. The governor will address the budget shortfall by borrowing short term from the legislative reserve account and pay back that account with investment income.

Mead says his budget is about 200 million dollars less than it was two years ago. Much of the proposed cuts are to local government funding. Mead reduced spending for cities and counties to 90 million dollars down from 175 million dollars two years ago. The governor says that reduction will have a big impact.

Wyoming U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis says she will finish her term and not seek re-election. She made the announcement Thursday afternoon in Cheyenne. Lummis tells Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck that she’s been thinking about this for several months.

Wyoming Rep. Cynthia Lummis announced Thursday she will not seek re-election and former Vice President Dick Cheney's elder daughter, Liz Cheney, said she was seriously considering running for the seat.  Casper State Representative Tim Stubson said he will run for the seat. 

Lummis is the only female member of the rebellious House Freedom Caucus and plans to finish her current term. She has easily won re-election since first winning Wyoming's lone spot in the U.S. House in 2008.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

The Consensus Revenue Estimating group or CREG will release its much-anticipated revenue forecast on Tuesday. Wyoming’s revenues are expected to drop 500 to 600 million dollars, which means legislators will have a lot less money to spend compared to the last budget. 

This comes at a time when the governor has already asked state agencies to find ways to trim 200 million dollars from the existing budget. The culprit is falling energy prices, specifically from oil and gas. 

Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Murray says he wants the state’s next Elections Director to focus on improving voter registration and turnout.

This comes after the state’s longtime Elections Director, Peggie Nighswonger, resigned from the post last month, citing philosophical differences with Murray. Nighswonger said in an interview with WPR that Secretary Murray is focusing too much on voter registration programs, and not spending enough time preparing for the 2016 elections.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead says a dip in energy revenues will require the state to cut up to 200 million dollars from its existing budget. 

The governor has instituted a hiring freeze and will be looking to every agency to return unspent money. Mead would like to avoid layoffs.

“I do not think that this is an area I will be looking at. I think we can get roughly 18 million dollars by not filling vacant positions and with a hiring freeze.” 

Mead said citizens will accept some reduction in services, but added that the state will likely need to dip into savings.

Bob Beck

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead says it’s time for the state to dip into its rainy day funds to get through some lean economic times. 

Falling oil and gas prices and declining coal revenues are reducing state revenues. He says the state will need to use some of the nearly two billion dollars in savings to get through the next two year budget cycle. While the state can reduce spending, Mead says there are still a lot of needs such as funding for local governments.

The High Plains wind farm, near McFadden, Wyoming.
Leigh Paterson

The Wyoming Democratic Party is praising the President’s clean power plan calling it an attempt to slow the effects of climate change. 

Party Vice Chairman Bruce Palmer says he’s hopeful that industry and state policy leaders will stop fighting solutions to climate change and focus on ways to address carbon emissions and develop renewable energy. 

Governor Matt Mead and other state officials are spending the summer watching energy prices as they make plans for a new budget next year. 

The governor says his priorities range from local government to health care. Mead expects that projected revenue may be down for the next two years, but he doesn't want budget cuts.          

"To cut another six percent as we did before I think would be very difficult, I think just not hiring people to fill jobs would be difficult and even together it may not make up the difference."

The Wyoming Democratic Party has chosen a new Executive Director.  22-year-old Laramie native Aimee Van Cleave will be the youngest political party director in the nation. Despite her age she has already worked as a legislative aide, worked on a political campaign, and has worked as a lobbyist.

Wikimedia Commons

Hillary Clinton’s campaign recently announced it will begin organizing in Wyoming. The move is part of the campaign’s goal to bring grassroots campaigning to all states before the 2016 presidential election.

Clinton is the only presidential hopeful with a presence in Wyoming so far. The campaign has hired Laramie local Peter Bishop, who previously worked on Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.

Aimee Van Cleave is the Wyoming Democratic Party’s Interim Executive Director. She says Hillary’s campaign is getting off to an early start.  

NORML

Wyoming marijuana advocates filed a petition to put an initiative to legalize medical marijuana on the 2016 ballot.

The Wyoming chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws filed the paperwork with the secretary of state’s office on Monday.

The group will have to collect more than 25,000 signatures by February 8th to get the initiative on the ballot. To become law, the initiative would have to be approved by a majority of Wyoming voters.

The new Chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party is Matt Micheli. Micheli is the son of former state gubernatorial candidate and legislator Ron Micheli. He takes over the job following some infighting within the party that included concerns over legislative action surrounding former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill. 

A Cheyenne attorney is the new chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party.  Matt Micheli will take over the reins at a time when traditional republicans are battling with a right wing element of the party.  But Micheli says disagreements between republicans is nothing new, he just wants to make sure any debates remain civil. 

“I think at the end of the day we all know we are on the same team and we all have the same goal and that there’s a lot of great things we can do together.”

Bob Beck

A few weeks ago the Wyoming legislative session came to a close and Governor Matt Mead admitted that he had a number of concerns. The biggest was the failure of the legislature to pass Medicaid Expansion. The governor tells us that he knew it would be a tough sell, but it was tougher than he thought.

Bob Beck

At the start of the Wyoming legislative session three freshman lawmakers from three corners of the state explained their goals and what they hoped to achieve. Now that the session is over, the three share their experiences. Cheyenne Republican Senator Stephan Pappas said he was impressed with the ideas the Senate was asked to consider.

"There are virtually no idea that was bad, now there are bad bills, but folks come to the legislature with good ideas."

Wyoming's legislative session is coming to a close. Wyoming Public Radio News Director Bob Beck joined Morning Edition Host Caroline Ballard for an overview of this year's goings-on.

Bob Beck

The Wyoming legislative session is coming up on its last week. It’s a session that’s seen the defeat of Medicaid Expansion and some other key issues. Because of that, critics say they really haven’t accomplished much, and some legislators agree.

After each legislative session lawmakers return home to speak to service groups about their accomplishments. Gillette Senator Michael Von Flatern isn’t sure what they did.

“You know some days I really wonder (laughs), because I spent a whole week, at least a week on Medicaid expansion that didn’t go anywhere.”

Wyoming Democratic Party

The executive director of the Wyoming Democratic Party will resign this month. That’s according to an email sent to lawmakers and leaked to the public Tuesday.

Party Chair Ana Cuprill asked Robin Van Ausdall to step down from the position. Cuprill declined to comment explicitly on why that is, but said Van Ausdall’s leadership has served the party well and has allowed the Democrats to remain a relevant minority party.

Bob Beck

The Wyoming legislative session is underway and it features 3 new Senators in Cheyenne and 14 newly elected Representatives. It’s a big stage for the newly minted lawmakers and 31-year-old Tyler Lindholm is excited. He is a tall, thin, and confident 1st year Representative from Sundance. Lindholm served in the Navyhas, chaired the Crook County Republican Party and is ready to jump into the legislature with both feet. But legislative protocols and the abundance of legislation can be a challenge for newcomers.

Aaron Schrank

Last week, Republican Jillian Balow was sworn in as Wyoming’s new Superintendent of Public Instruction. Balow is now working to rebuild the state’s Department of Education, formerly led by Cindy Hill. There are quite a few vacancies to fill and the current legislative session could shake things up for the state’s K-12 schools. Superintendent Balow spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank about the road ahead.

Bob Beck

For the next two months the State’s 90 legislators will gather in Cheyenne to consider a wide range of bills. Some ideas will be dead on arrival while others should generate considerable debate. One bill that will begin in the Senate would provide Medicaid health insurance to those who cannot afford health insurance and who do not qualify for subsidies under the affordable care act.

Senator Chris Rothfuss who is the Minority Leader in the Wyoming Senate and House Minority Leader Mary Throne say that legislative savings and Medicaid expansion will be among the top discussion items during the upcoming legislative session.

Mike Smith / Wyoming News dot com

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead said that state leaders should look to the future in an effort to improve the state. In his inaugural address, Mead said he is excited about a number of things as he heads into his second term.

According to a new study by the National Institute for Money in State Politics, Wyoming has the third lowest number of contested races for state legislature, tying with Arkansas for the spot. In 36% of its state races, there’s only one name on the ballot.  Only Georgia and South Carolina have less competition in their state elections. Researcher Zach Holden says, yes, it’s because Wyoming is dominated by strong partisan politics. But it’s also a state without term limits.

Wyoming’s Republican senators can’t wait to go from being in the minority to the majority party come January. In the new year the GOP will hold all the gavels - and with them, most of the power - on Capitol Hill. But Republicans are still locked out of the White House, which Senator John Barrasso is keenly aware of. He's not happy the president is using his pen on immigration reform or to agree to carbon emission targets with China. 

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