A proposed law that would have allowed the Wyoming Community College Commission to ask the state for more money to cover inflation spikes failed Wednesday in a legislative committee meeting.
Senate File 46 would have allowed the commission to ask for state funding for community colleges beyond their regular budget to account for inflation.
The bill’s most vocal detractor, Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, told the Senate Education Committee during its meeting that the Senate is often eager to give community colleges more money, so she hesitated to give them another mechanism for requesting public funds.
Generally, Steinmetz said, she supports community colleges.
“I recognize the funding situation we find ourselves in, and it’s a complex problem; we all know we’re grappling with it,” said Steinmetz, adding, “I also see that the (Senate) body is very receptive to community colleges. And we seem to be receptive to additional funding to them on the floor – quite a bit.”
Steinmetz, referencing her experience from serving on the Senate Appropriations Committee from 2020-2021, said the Senate is so likely to approve community college budget increases that the Appropriations Committee would factor that willingness into its decision-making processes.
To Keep Us Apprised
Senate Education Committee Chairman Sen. Charlie Scott, R-Casper, countered Steinmetz, saying SF 46 would merely have created a mechanism for community colleges to update lawmakers on their needs amid inflation spikes.
“I didn’t want automatic escalators,” said Scott. “But I wanted to have the inflation figures before us, where they’d be available.”
Scott said he personally has kept up with Casper Community College in his own district and has found that the quality of instruction is suffering as inflation rises.
Some faculty who retire are not replaced, Scott continued, while some positions are filled by adjunct professors “who are on average not as high-quality.”
“We’re seeing the quality of our institution being eroded,” Scott said.
He voted in favor of the bill, along with Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie.
Voting against the bill were Steinmetz, Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, and Sen. Evie Brennan, R-Cheyenne.