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Wyoming will need to use ~$331M in ‘rainy day’ dollars each year as legislature fails to pass K-12 funding changes

(Dan Cepeda, Oil City File)

CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Legislature failed to come to an agreement on how to address a structural deficit for K-12 education funding.

With the legislature failing to pass a bill to address the K-12 deficit, Wyoming will need to use about $331 million in “rainy day” fund (Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account (LSRA)) dollars on an annual basis in order to maintain operation, according to House Majority Floor Leader Albert Sommers (Sublette County).

A Joint Conference Committee tried to negotiate an agreement on House Bill 173 on Wednesday, but was not able to find a solution that would work for both chambers.

The bill proposed several different ways to address the K-12 education funding deficit:

  • spending cuts
  • diversion of some state funds toward funding education
  • a provisional “half-penny for education” sales tax to be imposed when the state’s “rainy day” fund drops below $650 million

While the House of Representatives passed the bill with the inclusion of the provisional sales tax, the Senate amended the bill to remove the tax in addition to adopting other changes to the legislation.

Speaker of the House Erick Barlow (Campbell, Converse County) said during the House’s floor session on Wednesday that the Joint Conference Committee tried to work on a compromise but ultimately ran into obstacles that couldn’t be overcome.

“We came to a place where the diversions became quite problematic at least for part of their chamber,” Barlow said.

He added that the House and Senate had some differences on how to get the most value out of American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 federal dollars for education that Wyoming will receive.

While the legislature failed to pass a bill to address the K-12 deficit, Barlow said they will work to do so in future sessions.

“To the citizens of Wyoming, we value education,” he said. “We value our educators. We value our schools and the things they bring to our communities. We’ll continue to work to have the quality education system we have and improve upon that and understand how we can continue to fund it into the future. Those discussions are not over.”

Barlow added that the legislature will convene for a special session this summer.

“The federal funds certainly are on the table for our special session,” he said. “That’s exactly why we convene in that special session.”

Senate President Dan Dockstader (Lincoln, Sublette, Teton) said the special session is expected to take place from July 12-16.