2018 Legislative Session

Bob Beck

This week the legislature’s Revenue Committee pushed off a number of tax measures until the end of January.

The committee has been trying to find revenue to offset losses in revenue that led to massive budget cuts, including a renewed effort to reduce education funding. Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard speaks with News Director Bob Beck about this. 

APA Consulting

Wyoming is proud of its small schools that serve kids across rugged and remote terrain. But lawmakers and educators are weighing whether small schools and small districts are financially sustainable.

 

At a meeting of the Select Committee for School Finance Recalibration last week, education consultants hired by the state legislature presented consolidation as a way to increase course offerings and extracurricular activities.

 

Office of Governor Matt Mead

Governor Matt Mead presented his budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year to the legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee Monday. The budget largely calls for reversing cuts to social services that Mead said have been in effect for long enough to hurt agencies’ ability to deliver services.

Mead wants to increase the Department of Health’s budget by $48 million. But he also rejected some of the department’s recommendations for spending reductions, like privatizing the Wyoming Retirement Center and Pioneer Home, an assisted living facility.

Design by Tennessee Watson

Wyoming lawmakers are coming at shortfalls in education funding from multiple directions as they head into the 2018 Budget Session. Through the work of interim legislative committees, they are looking for efficiencies in education and ways of generating revenue, hoping to meet somewhere in the middle.

Willow Belden

  

A Wyoming legislative committee has been looking to trim education spending out of what is called the school funding model. A Denver-based consulting firm is in the process of reviewing the model to determine how much actually needs to be spent on education in the state.

Tennessee Watson

Lawmakers met in Casper this week to examine the current school funding model and to hear recommendations from APA, a Denver-based education consulting firm hired to help the state find efficiencies in education funding.

The state legislature’s Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration has spent the last several months working with a group of Denver-based education consultants to review Wyoming’s approach to education funding. They’re hoping to find ways to save money.

 

But Laramie Senator Chris Rothfuss said time is tight. This week he and his fellow committee members will meet in Casper for the second to last time before the 2018 Legislative Session begins in February.  

 

Bob Beck

Wyoming’s revenue forecasting arm known as the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group or CREG had some good news for state officials. CREG says Wyoming’s general fund will see an increase of $141 million from January projections, but state lawmakers and the governor say it’s good news, not great news.

Bob Beck

Cities and towns are terrified about their financial future especially when it comes to having a stable source of revenue. Years ago legislators removed direct funding to local governments, preferring instead to fund them on a bi-annual basis from the state general fund. But Lawmakers have been engaged in budget cuts and communities in particular fear they will lose their general fund money. One solution is to have the ability to raise their own revenue.

Tennessee Watson

The Wyoming Education Association, or WEA, released the results of a survey Wednesday that says the majority of Wyoming voters don’t support further cuts to education.  

The WEA hired Public Opinion Strategies to conduct a phone survey with 500 Wyoming voters across the state. Kathy Vetter, president of the WEA, explained her organization felt it was important to contract with the largest Republican pollster in the nation to do the survey given the political makeup of the state.

Wyoming Legislature

Early this summer lawmakers were looking at a massive shortfall in education funding and overall revenue. That pushed lawmakers into a lengthy discussion about possible tax hikes. The idea was to hold a number of hearings over the summer on a variety of proposals and then pass bills that would raise $100 million, $200 million and $300 million. But a funny thing happened on the way to passing tax legislation the state’s revenue picture improved.

Last week consultants hired to help the state tackle its education funding deficit traversed Wyoming, hosting meetings to gather public input.

Energy industry revenues robustly funded public education in Wyoming for years, but a downturn has lawmakers questioning what to do.

School district superintendents across Wyoming are encouraging families to make their voices heard during the school finance recalibration process between now and January.

In a letter sent out by Campbell County School District One Superintendent Boyd Brown, he asked families to consider: “Should today’s student get the same or a lesser education than previous graduates due to energy market fluctuations?”

He also wanted them to think through, what would happen if fewer subject areas were offered, or if class size increased, to save money?

With energy revenue down, Wyoming state finances are tight and that has lawmakers looking for ways to streamline spending. Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration is responsible for figuring out how that works. One place they are looking is K-12 education. Senator Dave Kinskey serves on the committee. He said he wants to be sure Wyoming is getting the most bang for its buck. 

Tennessee Watson

Wyoming spends significantly more on education than most states. The national average is around $12,000 per student each year, while Wyoming spends over $19,000. But Wyoming’s funding deficit has caused policy makers to question what exactly the state is paying for, and if the high price tag is required to provide a quality education. 

On Tuesday, legislators on the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration met for the first time with APA Consulting — a firm contracted to help re-evaluate the state’s educational program and funding model.

Office of Governor Matt Mead

The accounts that fund education saw an unexpected revenue boost, which brought the predicted education shortfall from $400 million down to $250 million, according to Governor Matt Mead.

 

Mead said coal is coming back — along with oil and gas — but he cautioned the state is still running short on funds. He added that means the legislature will have some hard work to do during the 2018 Budget Session, as they consider further budget reductions or alternate revenue through new taxes.