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Bebout and JAC take scissors to governor's supplemental budget
Jan 23, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer
Wyoming Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, said the supplemental budget bill that came out of the Joint Appropriations Committee last week could be considered more conservative than the document initially presented by Gov. Matt Mead.
"We actually cut an additional $10 million more, roughly," Bebout said Tuesday. "The governor came with a very well-balanced, thought-out budget. ... We just have some differences."
He referred specifically to Mead's proposal to divert about $130 million in annual severance tax revenue from the state's permanent mineral trust fund. Mead suggested the money could go to the state's legislative stabilization reserve account instead, but Bebout and others on the JAC opposed that move.
"We felt it was important the revenue stream continue to go to our savings account, the permanent fund," Bebout said, recalling the "dire straits" of the 1980s and 1990s when the PMTF was used to offset losses connected to energy development.
He and others on the JAC anticipate that such support would be necessary again in the future. Bebout said long-term projections show state expenditures exceeding revenues by the year 2020.
"Instead of looking short term to the rest of this biennium or the next biennium, we're looking eight, 10, 15 years out," Bebout said. "This budget situation ... is real."
Committee members also disagreed with Mead regarding capital gains revenue: Bebout said Mead's budget proposal included a profile of Wyoming capital gains before the money had been received.
"Any capital gains you have in your personal lives, you don't spend them until you have them," Bebout said. "There's a fairly good assurance we'll receive some of these, but we felt we'd wait and see."
If the money does appear, Bebout said it will be used to fund landfills; cities, towns and counties; and the Gillette Madison Pipeline Project in east Wyoming -- all line items that he supports.
"We agree with (Mead), but we just want to make sure the money is there," Bebout said.
He would like to see more money dedicated to landfill support statewide, but he wasn't sure whether that would happen this session.
"There was just a reduction there," he said. "We'll see how we end up on that one."
The JAC did support sending $20 million to fund cities, towns and counties, but Bebout said there could be some disagreement between Wyoming's House and Senate on that item.
"The Senate wants to keep it at $20 million, but the House wants to take it to $10 million," he said, noting that the House last week passed a bill to increase the state fuel tax by 10 cents.
Bebout said the extra fuel tax, if approved, would send additional revenue to local government entities.
"That's one reason House members wanted to take funding down for cities, towns and counties," Bebout said.
The JAC approved of Mead's proposal that the University of Wyoming and state community colleges only be required to reduce their budgets by 6 percent instead of 8 percent. In addition, the JAC voted to place $1.5 million extra in the health insurance account for community college employees.
"I pushed that pretty hard," Bebout said.
The JAC supported other state workers by approving extra contributions to Wyoming's employee retirement fund, he added.
"That's a way to compensate those employees for their hard work," Bebout said. "Then we'll give them a 1 percent bonus and no merit pay."
Mirror budget bills should be introduced to the House and Senate next week. Once they pass through each body, the bills will go to a conference committee for consideration.