No Easy Answers to School Funding Question
Wyoming lawmakers are trying to figure out how to fund K-12 schools in the future as the state braces for funding cuts.
The state has received billions in coal lease bonus money for school construction in recent decades, but those funds are drying up as the demand for coal continues to drop.
"Of all the issues the state has to deal with, I think the biggest issue we collectively have to find an answer for is capcon for schools," said Governor Matt Mead, who presented his budget to the Legislature's Joint Appropriations Committee Monday morning. "If you look at the robust amount of spending that we've had on capcon over the last decade or so, we know there is no way to sustain that trend."
Mead says while some legislators believe it's time to look at increasing taxes, now is not the time.
"I think that the greatest burden of any increase would be put upon the very industries that are struggling the most now," said Mead.
Wyoming has no corporate or personal income tax and gets about 70% of its revenue from minerals.
Representative Steve Harshman, R-Natrona, chairs the Appropriations Committee. He says the state's entitlement will go up as district resources drop.
"We've got $670 million in savings on the school side," said Representative Harshman. "We can probably bleed this out for a few years and maybe get capital gains and avoid a tax increase, but I think the longer we wait, of course, then our options start running out."