Cattlemen’s Budget Session UpdateWritten by Christy Martinez
Fremont County Senator Cale Case updated the group on the upcoming Budget Session of the Wyoming Legislature, explaining that the new budget bill and the redistricting bill will be introduced without a two-thirds majority vote, but any other bills will require one, like the wolf management bill.
Of the budget, Case said Wyoming is doing very well, but he said there’s been a bump in the road – low natural gas prices.
“Our tax revenues are based on a percentage of the price that natural gas sells for, and currently the price is about $2.50, where it’s been over $10 and even up to $13 in the past,” he explained. “Over the past five years, the natural gas supply in the United States has doubled, and that has huge positive implications, but the bad part is we don’t get as much money for it, because it’s being found everywhere – in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Texas.”
“We’ve tripled our budget in Wyoming, and maybe we’ll have to slow down a little bit,” said Case of the consequences for Wyoming. “We can afford to do that. We’ve been very wise, and we’ve put money away for a number of years.”
Case said he serves on the redistricting committee, which has been working on drawing new House and Senate district lines, in light of federal law that requires redistricting in the budget session that follows a U.S. Census.
“The districts look a lot like what we have now, with 30 Senators and 60 House members, with the single-member districts we’ve had for the last 20 years,” he noted, adding that there’s been “repackaging” in Fremont County.
“Fremont County has grown slightly less than the state as a whole, and the districts have gotten a little bigger to encompass more people,” he said. “We’ve been able to bring in about 1,300 more people to be served by our existing legislators in Fremont County.”
He said residents of Fremont County in the Dubois area used to vote for legislators from the Jackson area.
“Now they’ll participate with Riverton and its surrounding area, which might make it more possible for a person from Dubois to be elected as a legislator for Fremont County,” he said.
In addition to Dubois, the South Pass City/Atlantic City district will also join Fremont County as a part of Senate District 25, which is Case’s district.
Statewide, Case said there have been big changes throughout the state in the rural environment versus the urban environment.
“The rural areas have grown more slowly, and that will cause a shift in the Legislature,” he stated, noting the substantial changes to the Big Horn Basin’s districts.
“Because Hot Springs County and the rest of the basin have lost people, they don’t have enough to make up the districts they used to have,” he said. “They’ve had to add more people.”
The committee looked at adding people from Teton, Sheridan or Johnson counties, but ultimately they pulled population from Shoshoni and Lysite in Fremont County.
Aside from the budget and redistricting, Case said he expects the new Wyoming wolf management plan to pass, although he says he won’t vote for it. He also said that worker safety will be a big effort because of Wyoming’s industry fatalities, but he said he doesn’t expect it to have an effect on farm or ranch operations.