Connolly for House - Wyoming District 13
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Constituent Newsletter

August, 2014

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

As your elected Representative to the Wyoming House, I am pleased to report back to you following the 2012-14 session of the Wyoming Legislature. I am honored you gave me the opportunity to represent you and Albany County in Cheyenne. It is simultaneously challenging and rewarding to serve in this capacity.

Every two years, it is the legislature’s responsibility to work with the Governor on a biennial budget for the state. Despite the challenges our nation is facing, Wyoming is still in a financially enviable position. In short, the budget consisted of $8.6 billion in appropriations, including $3.5 billion from the general fund, $1.6 billion in federal fund allocations, and $1.9 billion of other state fund appropriations. Of particular note are the following expenditures:

  • $77.7 million for public employee salary increases (including raises for K-12 teachers)
  • $175 million to local governments
  • $60 million for business ready community programs
  • $1.2 million for sage grouse research and protection
  • $20.2 million for the developmental disability waiver
  • $1.6 billion from the school foundation account for K-12 education including
  • $399 million for new school construction and major maintenance (including funds for the new Laramie High School)
  • $463 million for UW including capital construction
  • $420 million for the community colleges
  • $68 million for transportation including road construction and airport improvements

While the budget did include $64.5 million in funds for mandatory Medicaid expansion, I was deeply disappointed that the legislature did not approve fully supporting that expansion, a move that would have helped more than 16,000 Wyoming citizens as well as saved the state millions of dollars. I am hopeful that the governor will execute his discretionary authority to move the state closer to adoption of the ACA. Regrettably, the budget also did not adequately address the need for competitive wages for our state employees, including those at UW. In addition, the budget contained a footnote that has resulted in the State Board of Education postponing the implementation of new science standards for K-12.

On the bright side, a budget footnote contained funding for a preliminary step to provide early childhood educational opportunities for more children and families, an issue close to my heart.

It must be mentioned that the budget resulted in a tremendous amount of savings and with the new earnings from capital gains, the ‘rainy day fund’ has increased to a record high of almost $2 billion. In my mind, the legislature has not adequately addressed the balance between needed savings and spending; instead, making the choice to put funds in savings (with limited interest) at the expense of meeting the needs of our citizens and communities. This is not good fiscal policy, and I will continue working to have the hard conversations regarding spending vs. saving that will result in a balance that better meets our needs.

Next, I want to highlight a few pieces of legislation from the past session that I believe you will find important and will result in benefits to our state:

  • HB 46 increases the state contribution to public employees’ pension plans
  • HB 102 creates a sage grouse implementation team to assure that this important species remains safe from extinction
  • SF 61 allows for easier residency for veterans attending UW
  • SF 78 provides for suicide prevention education materials for K-12 educators
  • SF 31 provides for a 24/7 Sobriety Program to continue our efforts to combat drunk driving and substance abuse
  • HB 73 provides for competitive employment for persons with disabilities
  • HB 05 provides for school bus safety equipment to help combat ‘fly-bys’
  • SF 55 increases the amount of the Hathaway scholarship award by 5%
  • HB 12 allows the Department of Transportation to increase speed limits on our interstates to 80 mph
  • HB 6 increases protections for victims of domestic violence

Regrettably several bills failed that I would have liked to see passed. These include those that would have increased the minimum wage, provided for financial support for school districts to hire resource officers, expanded whistleblower protections, provided for full marriage equality and anti-discrimination laws for our LGBT citizens, and post-conviction relief for those wrongly convicted. I will continue to work on these issues and others in upcoming sessions.

The above are only a small number of the issues that were addressed last session. If you have questions about these or others, please let me know and I would be delighted to speak with you.

As we have moved into the interim, I am participating on the Joint Judiciary and Education committee meetings across the state. I also would love to meet with local organizations and groups to discuss issues of concern to you and to focus my efforts for next session. I want to hear your concerns and to work with you to continue making Wyoming a place where we are proud to work, live, and raise our families.

Respectfully yours,

Rep. Cathy Connolly