Legislature convenes MondayWritten by Jennifer Womack
Cheyenne – With the 2008 Budget Session of the Wyoming Legislature set to get underway Feb. 11, legislators say they’ll have fewer dollars to work with than they’ve had in recent years.
“There’s a lot to be discussed even though it’s a budget session,” said Senate Vice President Jim Anderson of Glenrock. “We’re going to find we don’t have as much money to spend as we have had the past few sessions.”
According to House Appropriations Committee Chair and Shoshoni rancher Frank Philp, legislators have about half as much to spend on the floor as they did during the last budget session. He estimated monetary requests within proposed legislation in the neighborhood of $400 million.
Speaker of the House Roy Cohee, Casper, echoed the monetary predictions late January in comments to members of the Casper Area Chamber of Commerce. “We’re going to have to be diligent in our discussions,” said Cohee, but was quick to note the situation is a far cry better than it was in 2000 when legislators found themselves $170 million short of being able to balance the budget.
“We need to talk about water in light of drought and we need to look at long-term storage given the early run-off and the need to deliver that water at a more appropriate time,” said Anderson. The Joint Appropriations Committee, which in its recommendations included deposits in the Wyoming Water Development Commission’s water accounts II and III, took initial steps towards that effort.
“The operative word across the state seems to be ‘impact,’” said Anderson. “That brings with it land use issues on the part of local communities and governments. We need to decide how best to manage the population density without treading too hard on private property rights.”
“I think one of the issues is going to be land use planning,” said Anderson, noting the work on subdivisions done in the Corporations Committee. Wyoming’s agricultural leaders are closely watching HB11, which could strengthen regulations surrounding subdivision of land that creates a parcel greater than 35 acres.
Anderson said issues like pipelines and power lines need to be addressed to ensure Wyoming’s ability to move its product to market. “To finance our government we need to move our gas and continue to move Wyoming coal in light of some of the carbon debate around the world,” said Anderson.
“Transmission lines are a key next step in developing the state’s wind resources. One of the things I’m looking at very seriously in my district is the development of wind. Given the consent of landowners, I see wind as a potentially valuable crop that can help enhance their incomes. I’ll be working personally to bring responsibility to development.” Anderson said he’d work toward this goal by encouraging development of the infrastructure through areas of Wyoming with a high wind index.
“We need to continue to diversify our economy and hopefully we can broaden our tax base without raising taxes,” said Anderson.