During this past spring and summer, prior to the primary election, I visited with many people throughout what is now House District 19. We discussed many issues of concern.
One of the most important issues discussed was the funding of state government. Many are proud that we have run our state government in a sound fiscal manner in the past. They see how our federal government is continually spending more money than it takes in, thus running a large deficit every year that our children and grandchildren will have to pay. They don’t want our state government to operate in the same manner as our federal government. They understand that our state government has to balance its budget, whereas the federal government does not.
But they are concerned, as I am, that we are not being frugal with our funding of state government. I am a fiscal conservative, and having served six years in the Wyoming State House, I see a trend that concerns me and is a concern that the citizens, taxpayers and voters of Wyoming need to be aware of.
On the even years, the Wyoming Legislature meets during the month of February in what we loosely call the “budget session” — we only spend four to five days discussing the budget. During those five days, we listen to the testimony of the Joint Appropriations Committee, and hear their recommendations for funding the state, which consists of around 125 state agencies.
The JAC has the governor’s budget, which he submits around the first of December. That committee listens to each agency, and hears their explanation of why they need the amount of money they are requesting for the next two years. If approved, this then becomes each agency’s biennial budget. Many of my constituents and I feel that should be the funding for each state agency for the next two years and they should be required to administer their programs within this budget, and not request additional funds, unless an emergency occurs.
During a general session of a non-budget session, this is not what is happening. The governor submits his recommendations for a supplemental budget to the JAC, but almost every agency is coming back to the JAC to ask for additional funding to run their agency. This includes our community colleges and the University of Wyoming. What alarms me and many of my constituents is that the legislature, during the general session, gives these agencies additional money. Many of my constituents, as well as myself, question why the legislature appropriates additional money during the general session for many of these state agencies, when we have already funded them for two years.
I feel it is prudent for each of us, as taxpayers and voters, to study this issue and then talk to our legislators. You need to express your thoughts and concerns regarding additional spending requests from the state agencies that are over and above the budgets approved during the budget session of the legislature. The legislature should not approve any additional funding unless it is for an emergency.