Just one week ahead of the Wyoming Legislature‘s budget session, the representative for House District 13, Cathy Connolly, came onto Laramie Live to talk about what to expect during those twenty days.

-What do you see as areas where the legislature may struggle to come together?

“We have a CREG report (Consensus Revenue Estimating Group) that comes out and looks at the projected revenue for the state. The last CREG report came out with a little bit of a downturn, so there’s of course a bit of concern there. We’ll be watching the budget very closely in terms of both maintaining the high quality of services we have for this state, but not over spending.

“I think the general leaning right now, is that there will regrettably be no raises for all state and government employees. That means University of Wyoming, teachers, highway patrolman, it means everybody for the next two years. But if that’s the trade off with cutting jobs, I’d much rather go with no raises for the next biennium than cutting needed services and jobs.”

-How could the budget session affect University of Wyoming/Laramie/Albany County?

“Money for municipalities, that comes to Laramie and Albany County is really crucial. We need to watch out for that in terms of infrastructure. Also, funding for the new high school. The Governor looked at the School Facilities Commission list and went down to number twelve. Guess where our high school is? Number thirteen, so I’ll be watching for that. I want to make sure that we’re not cutting education. I think education is one of our number one priorities in the state and we want to maintain the kind of excellence that we have there. I’ll also be watching out for any kind of discussion and issues regarding pensions for state worker and state retirees. Laramie and Albany County has many, many state workers.

“It is wonderful that we live here with the University. We have so many opportunities because we live in Laramie and have the University right here. But the University isn’t Albany County, we have other needs in the county. But we also need to fund the University. It is the University for the State of Wyoming. We need to fund it as the top level research university that it is. We need to maintain the highest level scholarship. We need to expand in those kinds of ways and fund the capital construction that we have outlined, including the performing arts building. We need to continue doing those types of things. But that doesn’t mean that money that goes to the University is money that goes to the city and the county, it just isn’t.

“I’ll really be watching the issue with the land that’s available that protects the Casper Aquifer. That’s an opportunity that just kind of fell into our lap over the past year and I think it has real potential. There’s some controversy over who owns that land and how it’s going to be sold, but I hope we can work through it and be able to acquire that land so that we can protect the aquifer, so we can have the kind of pristine water that we do right now. I also love the idea of that land becoming a state park. It would give us a gateway into the Happy Jack and Vedauwoo area. That would be incredible for economic development for the city.”

-Are you sponsoring any bills?

“I’ve been introducing a bill that adds sexual orientation and gender identity to our state statutes that have kind of protected categories. For example, in juror selection, education, and employment, that there is no discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Another one that I’m really excited about is a kindergarten readiness bill. What this bill does is brings together stakeholders around the state to begin talking about what kind of kindergarten readiness should we have and should we encourage throughout the state. We’ve got lots of good programs going on, but there’s no true coordinated effort. It’s time for us to do it. It’s a real bipartisan effort. It basically gives us only a six month time frame to get these stakeholders to sit down and pound out the best practices and possibilities and to come up with ideas for policy and funding.”

If you would like to contact Rep. Connolly about the upcoming budget session, you can do so by calling her at (307)399-0482 or sending him an email at cconnolly@wyoming.com. You can also listen to her interview on Laramie Live from Monday, Feb. 6th below.