BUDGETS - May 2016
Wyoming faces a revenue shortfall over the next four years. Estimates range from $700 million to $1 billion.
The Governor has called for across-the-board spending cuts for all agencies, departments and divisions, including the university. There has been no call for a drastic restructuring of government or a comprehensive analysis of the state government’s size and scope.
Across-the-board cuts is not leadership. Budget priorities must be determined. One program might have to die so that another might live. It’s all in our priorities. It’s all in our values.
The Governor calls for austerity – simple spending cuts - at a time when austerity cannot work. Wyoming state government, and the budget, needs structural reform.
An analysis of government programs should answer the questions: Can this program be privatized? Is this program costing the state more money than the benefit of the program? Can this program be eliminated? Is this program a proper function of government? Is this program’s existence the result of a genuine need, or is it the result of a federal mandate? What federal dollars are at stake if we eliminate the program, and do we care? Asking these questions is the proper role of the executive and the legislature.
One question that should never be asked: Can we find federal funds to pay for this, instead of using state funds?
Certain legislative committees are discussing ways to increase revenues – raise taxes. The law of taxes is that you generally get less of what you tax, so revenues from new or increased taxes rarely meet projections.
Our Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account, the LSRA or “Rainy Day Fund,” should be lasting us ten years. Tapping in to this account, as we did this session, should be reserved to fill critical gaps, not wish-list spending.
You hear about Wyoming’s $19 billion in savings. Much of that is in specific-use trust accounts, the principal of which is statutorily inviolate. Earnings from these accounts can only be spent for the purpose the trust account was created.