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.
Wyoming lawmakers are considering further reforms to the state’s pension system. This year, the legislature lowered pension benefits for new employees and changed the way cost-of-living adjustments are made.
But Cheyenne Representative Bryan Pedersen says he is convinced that even with the changes, Wyoming won’t have e
“This will at best float us three to five years. It’s a band-aid that will kick the can further down the road. And that’s with the plan fully performing at the eight percent estimated average annual return.”
A recent report from the Center for Public Integrity ranks Wyoming 48th in the nation when it comes to accountability in state politics. According to the report, Wyoming and a number of other western states seemed to operate with a live-and-let-live attitude when it came to government, stressing a strong preference for informal societal controls as opposed to legislative actions that regulated oversight.
Gordon Witkin is with the Center for Public Integrity. He says Wyoming is too relaxed when it comes to oversight and auditing processes.
A majority of Senators have voted to keep a provision in an Open Records bill that would allow communication between one elected official and one private citizen from being made public. But Senator Bill Landen argued that such communication should be made public, because it could provide insight into why board members voted a particular way. Landen argued that the bill allows for mischief.
The Wyoming House and Senate have begun discussing the 3-point-2 billion dollar state budget. It will cover a biennium, or the next two fiscal years. House Appropriations Chairman Rosie Berger says they are trying to pass a flat budget this year and limit future spending. Senate Appropriations Chairman Phil Nicholas says agencies will be asked to reduce their budgets by four percent in the second year of the biennium and another four percent in the following year.
A panel of Wyoming legislators has voted to deny Gov. Matt Mead's request to use state money to make up for expired federal stimulus funds that had gone to help support the Medicaid program.
A majority of members of the Joint Appropriations Committee voted against Mead's request to give the Health Department and extra $37 million for Medicaid today.
The committee also voted against Mead's request to put up nearly $7 million to cut waiting lists for people in the state waiting for services for developmental disabilities and acquired brain injuries.
An Australian coal company that wants to mine Powder River Basin coal has hired a Wyoming state lawmaker as an executive. The Gillette News Record (http://bit.ly/rrhxjt ) reported that Republican Rep. David Miller of Riverton sold his Campbell County mineral rights to Sydney-based County Coal Limited for $200,000 in March. Miller, a geologist, now holds one million shares in the company and will get 3 percent royalty payments on coal mined in the basin, one of the richest coal sources in the United States.
An organization called Good Jobs First says Wyoming should play harder-to-get when businesses apply for state funding and tax incentives. Of the states requiring job-creation results from benefiting businesses, Good jobs first ranks Wyoming 49th. Dan Neal of the Equality State Policy center says Wyoming is being too loose with its purse strings without demanding a return in new jobs. He says while Wyoming looks at ways to diversify its economy through incentives…it is not unreasonable to require a certain number of good paying jobs to be created.
The University of Wyoming says reductions in staffing and student support are among the scenarios they are considering if the legislature decides to cut its budget this year.
U-W and other state agencies have been asked to explain what reductions of two, five and eight percent would mean to their budgets. At the high end, U-W President Tom Buchanan says the cuts would be severe. In the two percent scenario, Buchanan says reductions not connected to academics would be made. But he admits that will change if the cuts are more than that.
A legislative panel has signed off on a plan that could remove federal protections from gray wolves in Wyoming as early as next year. Sen. Bruce Burns says the Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Interim Committee approved the plan on Tuesday.
Burns says the panel was unanimous in recommending that the Legislature approve Wyoming's wolf-management plan when it convenes in February. Gov. Matt Mead and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar agreed this summer to classify wolves in most of Wyoming as predators that could be shot on sight.