CASPER, Wyo — “People say they’re tired of career politicians, but they’re not really voting what they say,” Wendy Degroot told Oil City News. Degroot, a Libertarian, is challenging Republican incumbent Charlie Scott for the Senate District 30 seat he has held since 1983.
She said the old guard of Republicans “hasn’t really embraced or brought in anything new; they just want to tax more.”
Though the state has been forced to make cuts now due to COVID-19, Degroot said the revenues from the energy industry have been declining for at least the last 12 years, and yet she hadn’t seen any cuts made.
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“We’ve seen this coming for a long time,” she said. “We’re going to have to tighten our belts.”
Diversifying the economy
Degroot said she was frustrated that Wyoming, and specifically Casper, had missed opportunities in the past to attract new industries and businesses.
“Cabela’s wanted to come to Casper years ago, and nobody fought for that.” She said a local realtor had raised the price on property that the outfitting brand needed to purchase to accommodate its storefront.”
“It’s silly that Nebraska has four Cabela’s, and Colorado has two, at least.”
Wyoming should play to its strengths as a hunting, fishing, and recreation destination, Degroot said.
She said she also saw opportunities for manufacturing. For example, she said gun manufacturers were being chased out of New York and other east coast locations.
“We need to woo these companies,” she said. “If other states don’t want them, let’s give them a home, and play to our strengths.”
She added that the state was also missing out on value-added agricultural products by shipping beef and lamb out of state to be processed.
Degroot said she’s in favor of legalizing marijuana, not only as a means of diversifying Wyoming’s economy, but also to save on costs to society and the prison system.
“We have to weigh things out here: is it worth spending money to incarcerate people for marijuana? And I’m not talking about distribution or hardened criminals or crimes in conjunction with guns.” She said that people currently in prison for mere possession should be let out.
Degroot added that the crop could expand agriculture and that the state should reap the sales tax benefits that are currently going to Colorado.
“I’m not pro Green New Deal,” Degroot said, adding that she was concerned about the land use and impact to avian life by wind farms. She said it was ironic that wind turbines ended in landfills, and that many of the components that run them are petroleum-based.
Degroot said she took issue with the state continuing to spend money on construction projects while revenue had been declining. She pointed out the Casper State Office Building and the long-running renovation of the Cheyenne Capitol building as examples.
“I understand construction employs people for a while, but how much of that is coming back? […] You can hold off things for a while until things get better [financially],” she said.
Degroot said she also didn’t like to see four of Natrona’s County’s neighborhood schools closed while new ones were built on the periphery. “What’s that doing to the property values in these neighborhood where there’s a closed school?” she asked.
Degroot, a former nurse who now drives school buses in Casper, said it was costly and inefficient to now have to bus students to faraway schools. She said she’d consider some nuanced changes to the district’s school-of-choice rules, perhaps granting priority to children and parents who lived in the neighborhoods of schools they wanted to attend.
Degroot’s also convinced there’s plenty of efficiency to be found in the highway department, and spoke against the proposed Road Usage Charge. She said she’d personally seen six WYDOT employees spend 10 days repainting crosswalks on one intersection.
“How many times have they paved Wyoming Boulevard and then dug it up to replace the pipes?” she said. “I’m talking about common sense.”
On the issue of abortion, Degroot said: “My personal views don’t really matter. I wouldn’t do it, I’ve never done it, but it’s a medical decision between a person and their doctor.”
Degroot said she’d also defend gay marriage.
Degroot said expanding Medicaid in Wyoming would be too costly, and that other reforms could save costs on health care.
“We need to open it up federally so you can buy insurance across state lines,” she said. She added that a tiered-system of malpractice damage compensation could reduce liability insurance in the medical field, saving costs.
“We need new ideas. I’m not saying every idea is feasible, but we should at least look them…If I’m not educated on something, I will educate myself. I research what I’d like to see happen.”
“It’s also not just what I believe,” Degroot added. “As a government official, I’m representing the people, not just necessarily my own beliefs.”