University of Wyoming trustees and the state’s top lawmakers are sitting around a table in Casper. On today’s agenda: the relationship between the Legislature and UW. Get-togethers like this mid-July meeting don’t happen often.
"This is the first time, and I’ve been around politics quite a while," says Senator Eli Bebout, who has spent more than 20 years in the Legislature. "Where we got with the Board of Trustees, the President and members of the leadership and other key legislators to talk about these things. It’s the way it should be."
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.
The Wyoming House and Senate have agreed to changes in the state budget bill. The bill gives public employees a roughly 2.4 percent pay hike, provides money for improvements at community colleges and the University of Wyoming, and $175 million for local governments. Senator Eli Bebout called it a responsible budget.
The Wyoming House and Senate approved their versions of the state budget on Friday and will now work on reaching a compromise to send to the Governor. One of the entities that received a lot of attention was the University of Wyoming. Senate Appropriations Chairman Eli Bebout said that UW was treated well.
“We made some cuts, that’s what we do. But we gave some endowment money, we are moving ahead on a tier 1 Engineering College, we did the double-A, looking at the Corbett pools, we did that endowed chair for petroleum engineering.”
After hearing the budget request from the University of Wyoming, a State Senator says it is time that U-W look at raising tuition to a much higher level.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Eli Bebout says the cost of maintaining a high quality institution is substantial. Bebout says U-W had to go through some difficult budget cuts and so it may be time that the University take steps to raise some of its own revenue.
Many people hope that Wyoming’s uranium industry will become much more active, as interest in nuclear energy grows.
University of Wyoming Ag Economist Tex Taylor says there is a lot of potential for increased employment and tax revenue for the state. But Wyoming Senator Eli Bebout, who chairs the Senate Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee, says new and smaller companies are often stymied by the state and federal permitting process and other regulatory hurdles.
The Wyoming Senate has given initial approval to a bill that would provide grant money to small businesses to have OSHA determine whether they have a safe workplace.
Wyoming has consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous states in the country for workers, and Republican Eli Bebout of Riverton sees this as a way to use a positive approach to improve workplace safety.