Oct 28, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterThough she is running as a Democrat for Wyoming House District 55, Sherry Shelley of Riverton said her political party isn't the only thing that would make her a minority in Cheyenne.
"There are 12 women and 78 men in our legislature," Shelley said this month. "And we're the Equality State."
Shelley said she would like to see more women elected to the Wyoming Legislature so the state's female residents are more accurately represented.
"As a woman I view everything from a slightly different perspective," Shelley said. "In my opinion we need that balance in Cheyenne."
She has identified several issues she would be interested in addressing as a representative, beginning with Wyoming's budget. Gov. Matt Mead has called for 8 percent budget cuts across the state, but Shelley is optimistic that less drastic reductions will be necessary.
"It looks like the shortfall is going to be less than they predicted last January," Shelley said.
Regardless, she is likely to support a 10 percent increase in taxes at the gas pump, mostly due to the broad-based support she has heard regarding the change.
"Everything from the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association to the Wyoming Mining Association (and) the Wyoming Association of Municipalities, all those groups think it's a good idea," Shelley said. "So that's probably one I'd be very interested in supporting."
She said she would oppose proposals to dip into the state's reserve account, calling use of the rainy day fund a "stop-gap measure" that won't solve budget problems in the long term.
"In the short term if that's really critical to avoid cutting necessary programs, then I'd go along," Shelley said. "But we need sensible, sustainable solutions to budget shortfalls."
A diverse economy consisting of successful small businesses will lead to a more stable budget, Shelley said, and in speaking with local business owners it has become clear that Wyoming needs a more highly trained middle management workforce.
That problem should be addressed in Wyoming public schools, Shelley said, advocating for the implementation of high school academies that provide learning programs for students in specific subjects ranging from manufacturing to health care.
"I think that could be a huge boon to our lack of a trained, highly skilled workforce in Wyoming," Shelley said.
She is also interested in providing an infrastructure for "tomorrow's information technologies," and Shelley said she wants to work toward energy independence in the state.
"(I want) us to become leaders in the efficient use of and conservation of the energy we generate," Shelley said.
She called for better gas pipelines leading out of the state, also suggesting that trucking companies could convert their vehicles to liquid natural gas -- the most efficient fuel according to Shelley.
"(That would) be more clean and provide a ready market for Wyoming's natural gas," Shelley said.
Shelley is against a bill that would incentivize a transition to compressed natural gas vehicles within Wyoming's government entities. In particular, she said she is concerned about a portion of the bill that would require school districts replace 50 percent of their vehicles with CNG-fueled cars.
"It's another one of those state mandates that people are not so fond of," Shelley said. "We need to get our local districts re-empowered with the control they once had."
Shelley would rather see a CNG solution driven more by private enterprise. She suggested that companies producing the gas should be the ones to build CNG fueling stations throughout the state if they feel the market warrants that move.
The problem, however, is that CNG fueling stations cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build, and Shelley said they take up a lot of space. In addition, Shelley said vehicles that utilize CNG are more expensive than their gas-guzzling counterparts. Shelley said that is why some legislators have suggested loan programs or reductions in sales tax for people who buy CNG vehicles.
She agrees with those incentives, but Shelley would want to see any reduction in fees phased out quickly so state revenues aren't affected.
Shelley, a Central Wyoming College employee and small business owner, said she ran for office to give people a choice when it comes to their state representative.
"I really represent a broad range of people," Shelley said. "I have a lot of experience ... building partnerships and compromising. I'm very interested in working across party lines and differences to get things done for people in the state."
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