Budget work consuming county legislator's time this week

*State Sen. Eli Bebout, State Sen. Cale Cale, State. Rep. Jim Allen* (Cheyenne, Wyo.) - Heading into this week's discussion on the state's biennial budget three Fremont County Legislators agree that it will be a tough session with revenues down. "We start amending the budget on Wednesday, so it will be a big week for us," said Senator Eli Bebout of Riverton. The Joint Appropriations Committee decided on one percent cuts across the board this year and next in its proposal, and Bebout acknowledged that will be a bitter pill for some of the smaller agencies. "It's punitive to those with small budgets, so I looked at how we could consolidate socme agencies or eliminate ones not doing their job," he said. Bebout said the way the Capitol reconstruction was handled by the Department of Administration and Information gave him pause. "The School Facilities Folks do a good job with construction and perhaps we can gain some economy of scale if we combine the two." Bebout also said he wants the Wyoming Officer of Consumer Advocate to tell the legislature why it should exist. "There's no doubt we need protection for consumers, but as far as I can tell, this office hasn't done anything. They need to tell us why they are needed or we should eliminate them." Senator Cale Case of Lander said the budget takes a lot of time, with only five days of floor time. "That gives the legislators not on the appropriations and conference committees other time to get bills addressed on the floor, if you use your time correctly," he said. Case said he supports Medicaid Expansion, "or something different that gives state residents coverage." The Lander Senator said he's heard from too many consitutents who "had a bad day" and now face huge medical bills. "It's a huge burden on working people and we need to think about it. They have no choice, and I've been in that same situation with my cancer. Until I obtained insurance, the oncologist wouldn't even talk to me." One of Case's bills failed introduction by one vote, "which tells me there is support for it, so I'll bring it up in the next session." That bill was to streamline misdemeanor criminal cases to allow them to have a preliminary hearing where "spurious or nonsense" allegations were brought against someone. Still alive is Case's amended to the Industrial Siting Act that he said is "directed at bad actors who sit on permits without the ability to act on them." He said he wants those permittees, such as the Two Elk Power Plant at Gillette, to redo the permitting process so lawmakers have the most current socio-economic data to make a decision on. State Representative Jim Allen of Lander noted the tight time schedule to review the two-year budget. "Behind all of this budget work is the backdrop of low energy markets and federal regulatory restrictions on minerals access. Half of Wyoming’s state budget is derived from minerals, thus negating the need for a state income tax. Minerals pay for highways, schools, education, health and social services, University of Wyoming and the seven Community Colleges. Wyoming faces tough times until markets recover and federal regulators take a more practical look at access to minerals. If not, Wyoming must decide what we need and what we are willing to pay for," he told #county10 #news