Wyoming Senate approves biennium budget on first reading Tuesday - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Wyoming Senate approves biennium budget on first reading Tuesday

Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, center, talks with Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – The second day of budget discussion went much faster than the first, with the 30 Wyoming senators rarely breaking to discuss any of the sections.

In the span of the morning and afternoon floor sessions, the Senate Committee of the Whole spent around four hours going through the rest of the budget which they had not covered on Monday. The remains sections covered a span of topics.

SF 1 addresses the biennium budget, which begins July 1, 2020 and ends June 30, 2022. Only a quarter of the budget bill was discussed on Monday, Feb. 17, but the senators regularly commented throughout the Tuesday, Feb. 18 floor session that they were exhausted by the massive bill.

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In fact, a number of senators clapped when section 400 of the bill, the final one, was closed, just before the 5 p.m. deadline. A few grumbled when Senate President Drew Perkins told them they would have to continue into the evening to discuss at least some of the bills on the docket for the day.

A number of points regarding the budget were addressed during the Monday session, such as increased IT requests across the state’s departments, totaling more than $160 million. The Joint Appropriations Committee decided to push back on this, with their proposed budget asking many departments to cut their IT budgets and requests down by 50%.

One department focused on in Tuesday’s talks was the Department of Workforce Services. While Gov. Mark Gordon recommended that DWS receive just over $207 million in funding, with $100 million coming from federal funds, the JAC suggested funding at $205 million.

Teton County Sen. Mike Gierau discussed the DWS section, noting the department’s sprawling staff.

“We reclassified and re-positioned some of the staff in the department, which cut down on costs and the JAC denied $106,000 to the department when they asked to purchase some online video safety content,” he said. “We felt that those type of videos could be pulled off of YouTube at a much lower cost.”

The Senate also talked about the Department of Corrections’ budget, which the governor recommended be funded at just under $300 million, and almost $274 million of that comes from the state’s general funds. Around 1,000 people work in the department currently.

Carbon County Sen. Larry Hicks pointed out that the JAC cut funding in half for out-of-state prisoner placements. The state has contracts with Wyoming county jails, the jail in Scottsbluff County, Nebraska and the jail in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi.

The bill will be scheduled for a second reading, likely sometime this week.