Wyoming House Democrats: Basic Services Must Be Funded
As Wyoming lawmakers continue to struggle with a state budget, a trio of leading house Democrats say they are concerned about basic services not being funded.
House Minority Floor Leader Mary Throne (D-Cheyenne) says "we do tend to hoard money at the state level," adding Wyoming has $1.8 billion in its "rainy day fund." She says that shows "we really don't have any deficit of any kind." Throne says one of her big concerns is to ensure enough state money is allocated to local governments to allow cities, towns and counties to operate.
She says one problem is that no one seems to know how much money that actually requires. Throne says small towns and communities that are heavily dependent on
the state's slumping energy industries are "either hurting already or soon will be."
Rep. Jim Byrd (D-Cheyenne), the House Minority Caucus Chair questions whether much more can be cut from the state budget. Byrd says in his previous seven years in the legislature lawmakers have continually made cuts to the point where he questions whether more cuts can be made "without hurting the functionality of government."
Rep. Ken Esquibel (D-Cheyenne) says he wishes lawmakers would go directly to the voters and ask them whether they would rather implement one percent across the board budget cuts or raise money for the state with a one percent sales tax increase.
But many Republican lawmakers disagree with any talk of raising taxes, citing what they say is overwhelming comment from constituents against any tax increase and in favor of budget cuts.
State Senator Leland Christensen (R-Alta) speaks for many Republicans in the legislature when he says: "I think we need to tighten our belts. I think before we look at raising taxes we need to make sure we are very thrifty."
Christensen says that while he doesn't agree with every funding decision made by the legislature's Joint Appropriations Committee [JAC] in its budget proposals, he thinks in general most of their proposals were a step in the right direction.