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Committee says 'no' to Mead revenue shift proposal

Jan 22, 2013 - By Ben Neary, The Associated Press

The legislative panel responsible for drafting a supplemental Wyoming state budget bill is recommending that lawmakers reject Gov. Matt Mead's proposal to reduce the flow of state energy revenues going into permanent savings and school construction.

The Joint Appropriations Committee voted on Friday to reject Mead's proposal to redirect about $130 million of energy revenues a year that's now flowing into permanent savings into the state's Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account.

The state Constitution directs 1.5 percent of severance tax revenues into permanent savings. Mead has asked lawmakers to redirect an additional 1 percent revenue stream, called the "statutory flow," that goes into permanent savings under state law.

"Under my proposal, we will continue to save more in the stabilization account. And by doing so, we will strengthen our ability to weather tough times as well as add transparency," Mead told lawmakers in his State of the State address earlier this month.

Money in the reserve account earns interest, but it's available to be spent if the state needs it for operations. The state may spend only the interest from permanent savings.

Rep. Sue Wallis, R-Recluse, serves on the House Appropriations Committee. She said Monday that members of the committee see the statutory flow into permanent fund as the Legislature's safety net.

"We are not comfortable diverting that until we absolutely have to," Wallis said. "And we don't absolutely have to. It's not that rainy of a day, yet."

Sen. Eli Bebout, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Monday that many veteran lawmakers recognize that revenues from the state's Permanent Mineral Trust Fund saved the state in the 1990s when other sources of state revenues dried up.

"The interest income off of that going to our general fund, and that has dropped down in terms of a percentage of our revenues for the general fund expenditures," Bebout said. "So anything we can do to build that up, I like. And I think that's a better long term approach for the peaks and valleys we experience, so I like that."

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Legislature, Wyoming