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Legislature may adjourn earlier than expected

Feb 27, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, says he is confident about Wyoming's long-term financial situation.

Wyoming Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, is hopeful that the Legislature will adjourn on Wednesday, several days earlier than anticipated.

"There's a good chance," he said Wednesday morning. "It's an interesting thing ... if you say you'll take 45 days you do. If you say you'll take 36 or 37 days, you do."

Lawmakers are limited to 60 days in session each biennium, so Bebout said they try to be prudent with their time spent in Cheyenne. He said extra days can be used in the event of an emergency later on.

"Leadership has (tried) to do general sessions a little shorter to save days if we need them," Bebout said. "Since I've been in the Senate we haven't needed the extra days, (but we) always like to have them in reserve."

The same goes for state revenues: Bebout, who serves as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said legislators were conservative when formulating Wyoming's supplemental budget this session. For one thing, he said, $62 million in reductions were made to the state's general fund.

"It was one of the few times since I've been around we've reduced the size of government," Bebout said, noting a decrease of 48 full-time and seven part-time positions at the state level.

"That was net position changes," Bebout said. "In terms of the budget, we had a decrease of 88 positions."

Committee members also worked to ensure that one-time earnings are used for one-time expenditures, he said, and they took money for fire suppression out of the general fund instead of the state's reserves.

"The governor wanted to spend money out of the reserve account," Bebout said. "We set it up so he really couldn't."

Gov. Matt Mead did increase the amount set aside for fire suppression, a move Bebout disapproved of but also "didn't have a big problem with."

"I would have liked it the way it was, (but) he has a strong feeling we'll have a bad fire season," Bebout said.

Another change of Mead's that Bebout called a "mistake" had to do with capital gains.

"I have a strong feeling about capital gains -- they come and they go," Bebout said. "The only way I want to spend capital gains is when we have it in the bank."

He said a JAC amendment stipulated that capital gains earnings would go to the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account this year, but an amendment by Mead will keep the money out of the LSRA until the next biennium.

"I disagreed, (but we) didn't have the votes to override it," Bebout said. "It is what it is."

Regardless, he is confident about Wyoming's long-term financial situation. He said revenue streams may be shaky in the coming years, but decisions made during this legislative session should leave the state prepared for tougher times. For example, he said, the JAC worked to build up the Permanent Wyoming Mineral Trust Fund.

"That's one of the reasons we're ranked No. 1 in (24/7 Wall St.'s Best and Worst Run States survey)," Bebout said. "If you're really going to look past the next two to six years, you need to look at ... long-term savings."

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