Winter Roundup - Updates from Washington, D.C., Wyo presented at annual conferenceWritten by Natasha Wheeler
Casper – Attendees at the 2015 Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) Winter Roundup received updates from Congress and Governor Matt Mead.
Senator Mike Enzi, Senator John Barrasso and Representative Cynthia Lummis spoke to the group through a live-stream from Washington, D.C. on Dec. 1, and Gov. Mead visited the conference on Dec. 2.
Trade and taxes
Enzi commented that all of the state-government officials are working on issues that concern WSGA, including policy related to wildlife, public lands, healthcare and education. He emphasized prioritizing state management over federal management and highlighted efforts to reform the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Enzi also addressed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), commenting, “Agriculture, including the beef industry, is interested in this agreement because it opens up new markets for U.S. products. I’m continuing to review the agreement, listening to concerns about its effects and evaluating how the trade deal will impact individual industries.”
Relative to current House and Senate negotiations concerning a tax extenders package, he said, “At this point, it’s unclear just how the package will shape up but it will have to meet the approval of the Senate, House and the White House.”
Praise for Wyo
Barrasso acknowledged the hard work of Wyoming citizens, including those in the armed forces.
He spent Thanksgiving in Afghanistan with the Wyoming National Guard and stated, “They are people we can all be proud of. They are getting the job done.”
Barrasso also commended the efforts of the legislative body, including work to reform both the ESA and Waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS), to better protect landowners, ranchers, communities and small business owners.
Lummis also recognized efforts to fight against WOTUS and reform the ESA.
She also noted, “We had a big win on Dec. 1 in the house. The Equal Access to Justice Act amendments that we’ve all been espousing unanimously passed the house.”
Lummis addressed the H-2A rule concerning special procedures for herding operations as well, expressing gratitude to the WSGA and Wyoming Wool Growers Association members for their participation in supporting improvements to the initial proposed rule before a final rule was released earlier this year.
“As this calendar year winds down and we are seeing these major pieces of legislation hit the floor, know that we are all working overtime, as are our staffs, to coordinate regularly and ensure that the work the senators do is retained in the bills when they come to the House and vice versa,” she remarked.
In his address, Mead shared excerpts from a publication titled, Twenty Moments in Wyoming Politics, One Hundred Years Ago; Or, Twenty Brief Essays on the 1890 Wyoming State Legislature by David A. Wolff, illustrating that political struggles are inevitable in governmental proceedings.
Quoting Wolff, Mead said, “Partisan politics occasionally flared up in the legislature, but the heated battles were often fought between sections of the state.”
Moving on to current affairs, he reiterated his initiative with the Western Governors Association to reform the ESA, explaining that previous attempts at reform have been too biased in one way or another.
“The ESA needs to be improved. It needs to be improved not just for the western states, but for the whole country,” he remarked. “We all have to work collectively with wildlife groups, with producers and with a broad coalition to try to address this in a bipartisan way.”
Mead also addressed the state budget, emphasizing Wyoming’s history of responsible fiscal management. He released his budget recommendations on Dec. 1.
“When we go through the budget, there are going to be things that some people, and maybe everyone, will not like. But that is the business that we have to do to be fiscally conservative, and my budget is so. We hope that long term, although it may be difficult now, we will continue to serve the state, to build the state, to invest and continue to send out the message that even in the downturn, Wyoming is still extremely fiscally strong,” he explained.
Roughly 70 percent of Wyoming revenue is tied to the mineral industry, and with the recent downturn in gas, oil and coal, the state will see decreased revenue.
“In my budget, we have tried to recognize we still need to do some important work for the state of Wyoming, for community colleges, for roads, for the University of Wyoming and the Game and Fish, for example, but at the same time, I have asked for some cuts,” Mead noted.
The budget allows for continued savings to plan for the future and consideration of both the state rainy day and permanent funds.
“Three years ago, we received the highest credit rating any state can have, a AAA credit rating, and we want to keep that,” he stated.
Mead acknowledged the challenges associated with the cuts but added that Wyoming is in better financial shape than most of the other states in the nation.
“Where we find one blade of grass, leave two. It is the obligation for all of us to leave the state a little better place than we found it. That’s my job, that’s your job, and we can get it done together,” he said.