CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Sweetwater County Sen. Tom James brought a second controversial amendment before the Wyoming Senate on Wednesday, Feb. 19.
Amendment 30 of SF 1, the biennium budget bill, called for the defunding of the Wyoming Business Council, the organization tasked with diversifying Wyoming’s economy and bringing more business to the state.
James told his fellow senators that in the decade since the council’s founding, it had done nothing of major importance for the state.
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“They’re promoting wind and solar energy in a state with a foundation in minerals like coal,” he said. “If they had done their job, we wouldn’t be sitting here and discussing raising taxes.”
Sens. Anthony Bouchard and Bo Biteman backed their fellow senator, stating his belief that the council’s board members were only serving to further their own careers and making unethical deals with businesses and corporations on the side due to connections they’d made within the council.
He described a system that a friend of his created that analyzed information about the WBC board members, showing contracts they’d stuck with other council connections. When looking at all of the information his friend collected, Bouchard was shocked, noting that it looked like the members had formed a tight-knit club.
Biteman felt that the state was throwing money at an organization that didn’t show any benefit of funding.
“In the private sector, where I live and work, when something isn’t functioning, you close it down,” he said. “In government, you just continue giving it more money. It’s time to pull the pin at some point, people.”
Sens. Chris Rothfuss, Dave Kinskey and Wendy Schuler argued in defense of the organization, pointing out that the council has been integral in bringing more businesses into Wyoming.
“I also take issue with the comment about people on the board trying to line their own wallet,” Kinskey told the Senate. “My wife served on that board and you wouldn’t find a scrap of evidence that she did it for any personal gain. I know many people, good people, who have served on that board and there’s no hidden benefit.”
While the council’s supporters admitted that it needed some restructuring and work done in the council, but they pointed to the organization’s newly appointed CEO as a sign of brighter things to come.
“Our best days are ahead,” Kinskey said.
Twenty-four senators voted down the amendment on Wednesday evening.