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Senate and House done with rival budget bills

Feb 28, 2012 - By Ben Neary, The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- The Wyoming House and Senate have passed parallel budget bills spelling out their respective visions of how to fund state government over the next two years.

While both bills call for roughly $3.2 billion in spending for the period starting in July, there are differences in the two measures that will have to be resolved in conference committee.

The Senate approved a $3.2 million amendment not found in the House bill that would provide additional funding for treatment of people who suffer from acquired brain injuries or developmental disabilities.

Waiting periods

Sen. Charles Scott, chairman of the Senate Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, said he's pleased the Senate approved the funding and it's critical to cut waiting periods for people who need those services. The state may be able to find increased funding when it looks at its overall Medicaid program spending in coming months, the Casper Republican said.

The House shot down an amendment proposed by Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson, for $3.5 million in increased funding to address the waiting periods. He said there are 445 people on the waiting list and said some have been waiting for more than a year for services. Gingery said putting up the extra money would be a good-faith effort to address the problem.

Gov. Matt Mead had asked lawmakers to put up $12.5 million for the programs in his budget request.

Rep. Kathy Davison, R-Kemmerer, urged the House to pass Gingery's amendment. She said her son required years of state-funded treatment after suffering a childhood disease.

Priority talks

House Speaker Ed Buchanan, R-Torrington, responded that the House needed to consider its priorities.

Buchanan said he's been a strong supporter of state funding to help people with developmental disabilities and acquired brain injuries during his 10 years in the Legislature. But he reminded the House that it had voted to approve more than $8 million in supplemental funding for the state's community college system last week. The Senate did not approve that funding and it will have to be addressed in conference.

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