Wyoming Lawmakers Take Four-Day Break
The Wyoming Legislature is taking a four-day recess starting on Friday as lawmakers gear up for the "home stretch" of the 2017 session.
While the break is officially billed as the "mid-session recess," the 2017 session is in fact well past the midway point. It began on Jan. 10 and is slated to wrap up no later than March 3.
But even though the calendar may say the lawmakers work for this session is mostly over, many of the more contentious issues are still waiting to be resolved.
For example, education funding, which Governor Matt Mead has called "a crisis," will be a major challenge. The House and Senate have put together significantly different proposals, neither of which is necessarily beloved by school officials.
Laramie County School District#1 Superintendent John Lyttle said this week that while the House funding proposals are problematic in many ways, a Senate proposal that could lead to cuts of $91 million for education really has educators worried.
The two houses will have to work out their differences when they get back.
Lawmakers, in general, are trying to find a way to pay for education and other state programs at a time when revenues to the state are trickling in at the lowest rate in recent memory. School funding by itself is facing a $400 million annual shortfall according to current projections.
Debate continues among legislators as to how much use to make of the state's "rainy day fund" which currently stands at $1.6 billion.
Governor Mead has said of the situation "It's raining." But many lawmakers have concerns about tapping into the fund in view of the uncertain future of state revenues, which in Wyoming are largely tied to taxes on the energy industry.
While oil and natural gas prices have been inching upwards, some say the state's coal industry may never entirely recover from a current slump.