Wyoming lawmakers begin tackling budget - KOTA Territory News

Wyoming lawmakers begin tackling budget

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During Monday's State of the State address Republican Governor Matt Mead said he left about $200 million on the table for lawmakers in what they're calling a conservative budget.

"He's worked very hard trying to keep it flat and yet be creative in economic development and looking at ways of creating jobs," said House Speaker Pro Tempore Rosie Berger, a Big Horn Republican.

The Appropriations Committee has already narrowed that $200 million down to $27 million through mostly energy and education programs.

"A big chunk of that money is dedicated to bolstering the common school permanent land fund so that we don't have to tax ourselves in the future to build school facilities," said Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau, a Gillette Republican.

"What they've done is they're looking really at how we compete in a world economy. It allows us the opportunity to look at other ways of using our coal resource in new innovative ways," said Berger.

Mead's budget includes a two percent raise for teachers and 2.5 percent raise for state employees, but Democrats say that isn't enough.

"For the last four years we haven't given external cost adjustments or cost of living adjustments to these employees. And that has resulted in an erosion of their take home purchasing power of approximately 10 percent," said Senate Minority Floor Leader Chris Rothfuss, a Laramie Democrat.

"I think right now we're very fortunate that we can even look at a two percent increase, but we also add to that the health benefits and the retirement benefits," said Berger.

Wyoming's legislative budget session is scheduled to run through March 7.

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