By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Consolidating the state’s various accounts into one main “checking” and “savings” account will give Wyoming residents a better idea of how much the state has to spend on the services it provides, according to Gov. Mark Gordon.
As a result, Gordon is backing proposed legislation to eliminate what one legislator called a “slush fund.”
The state puts much of its income into its “general fund,” the main “checking account” used to pay for state operations. Over the years, a number of other accounts have been established to receive part of the money that would otherwise go to the general fund. The money in those accounts is then earmarked for use on special projects.
However, Gordon, the former state treasurer, said having so many separate accounts makes it difficult for the state’s residents to understand exactly how much money the state has available for its main programs, said spokesman Michael Pearlman.“
The governor … has emphasized that there’s a lack of transparency to the state’s finances,” Pearlman said. “He would like the average taxpayer to have a better understanding of how much it costs to provide the services they have come to expect from the state.”
Along those lines, Gordon is backing legislation that would eliminate one special account, the “Strategic Investments and Projects Account,” created in 2013.
The SIPA account received its funding from investment income that would otherwise have gone to the state’s Permanent Mineral Trust Fund.
However, Gordon said the account in recent years has been used to pay for work on items such as the Wyoming State Penitentiary and to fund the Legislature’s deficit control account.“
These are examples of new pots of money being created which deviate from the original purpose of the SIPA and complicate the budgeting process,” Gordon said in a statement.
Senate File 71 is sponsored by the Joint Appropriations Committee.
Senate Vice President Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, a member of the JAC, said the account was used as a place to put money when the state was seeing surpluses in its budget.
“In recent years, it has not been used for what its original purpose was, but rather as a slush fund to pay for programs and projects that should have come out of the state’s general fund,” he said. “We no longer have surplus revenues in Wyoming and it’s time to restore transparency in our budgeting process by eliminating the SIPA account.”