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Lawmakers pursue a solution to end budget conflicts
Lawmakers pursue a solution to end budget conflicts
Members of the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee are tired of the constant budget fights between the House and Senate.
Members of the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee are tired of the constant budget fights between the House and Senate.

As the first proposed amendments (more than 90 in all) to the 2021-2022 budget hit the floors of both chambers Wednesday, lawmakers still went about their business as usual, pushing for a multitude of changes in the nearly $3 billion budget they’re set to pass by March 12.

In the Senate, lawmakers approved amendments to cut a half million dollars from money to administer provisions of the Endangered Species Act — a response to changes in federal law — while voting up a proposal from Sen. Eli Bebout to eliminate all vacant positions in government that had been open for more than three months.

The House did its own thing, voting down amendments to eliminate funding for the state’s death penalty qualified-attorneys (which would amount to a de facto ban on death penalty cases in Wyoming) and adjusting funding levels in the state public defender’s office. In some cases, both chambers even had amendments in common, including cleanup language to ensure the University of Wyoming’s “We the People” program retains control over certain funds.

Most controversial of all, however, might be the one amendment intended to resolve the differences between the two chambers: S20001, a five-page budget amendment from the appropriations committee with impacts on 11 different areas of the budget.

Passed on second reading by the Senate with almost no advance notice of its existence, the amendment is a culmination of weeks of budget meetings between senators and representatives on the committee who are seeking to avoid the degree of conflict experienced in past sessions. Sold heavily by members of the Senate as a way to “expedite” the budget process, the amendment encompasses areas of the budget both the House and Senate identified as easy compromises, aiming to cut down on the drawn-out battles over funding that have come to define the state’s budget sessions.

“This is a ‘trust me’ deal,” Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, said on the floor Wednesday. “There was a former state senator from central Wyoming who stood up a few years ago and said ‘I don’t trust the appropriations committee – they know too much.’ But I do trust the appropriations committee. The amount of time they spent was incredible. So trust them on this, and any changes you want to make, do it on third reading.”

Others, like Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, objected to the lack of time available to debate the bill. While unwilling to carve out each individual facet of the amendment, he was nonetheless uncomfortable with the precedent the amendment could set for future sessions, arguing that the committee’s effort to save time could reduce transparency in an already complicated budget process.

“I’m almost certain that almost everyone in here disagrees with some part of it. They just don’t know what they disagree with yet,” said Rothfuss. “They all have constituents whose programs might be cut and would like to contact you about them, but they don’t know about them yet.”
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Lawmakers pursue a solution to end budget conflicts
Lawmakers pursue a solution to end budget conflicts
Members of the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee are tired of the constant budget fights between the House and Senate.
Members of the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee are tired of the constant budget fights between the House and Senate.

As the first proposed amendments (more than 90 in all) to the 2021-2022 budget hit the floors of both chambers Wednesday, lawmakers still went about their business as usual, pushing for a multitude of changes in the nearly $3 billion budget they’re set to pass by March 12.

In the Senate, lawmakers approved amendments to cut a half million dollars from money to administer provisions of the Endangered Species Act — a response to changes in federal law — while voting up a proposal from Sen. Eli Bebout to eliminate all vacant positions in government that had been open for more than three months.

The House did its own thing, voting down amendments to eliminate funding for the state’s death penalty qualified-attorneys (which would amount to a de facto ban on death penalty cases in Wyoming) and adjusting funding levels in the state public defender’s office. In some cases, both chambers even had amendments in common, including cleanup language to ensure the University of Wyoming’s “We the People” program retains control over certain funds.

Most controversial of all, however, might be the one amendment intended to resolve the differences between the two chambers: S20001, a five-page budget amendment from the appropriations committee with impacts on 11 different areas of the budget.

Passed on second reading by the Senate with almost no advance notice of its existence, the amendment is a culmination of weeks of budget meetings between senators and representatives on the committee who are seeking to avoid the degree of conflict experienced in past sessions. Sold heavily by members of the Senate as a way to “expedite” the budget process, the amendment encompasses areas of the budget both the House and Senate identified as easy compromises, aiming to cut down on the drawn-out battles over funding that have come to define the state’s budget sessions.

“This is a ‘trust me’ deal,” Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, said on the floor Wednesday. “There was a former state senator from central Wyoming who stood up a few years ago and said ‘I don’t trust the appropriations committee – they know too much.’ But I do trust the appropriations committee. The amount of time they spent was incredible. So trust them on this, and any changes you want to make, do it on third reading.”

Others, like Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, objected to the lack of time available to debate the bill. While unwilling to carve out each individual facet of the amendment, he was nonetheless uncomfortable with the precedent the amendment could set for future sessions, arguing that the committee’s effort to save time could reduce transparency in an already complicated budget process.

“I’m almost certain that almost everyone in here disagrees with some part of it. They just don’t know what they disagree with yet,” said Rothfuss. “They all have constituents whose programs might be cut and would like to contact you about them, but they don’t know about them yet.”



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