Guest Column: Budget, Property Tax Top Priorities During Legislative Budget Session

Senate President Ogden Driskill and House Speaker Albert Sommers write, "Let’s be clear. Wielding the budget as a political litmus test or for ideological chest-thumping is not being conservative. That’s obstructionism. That may fly in DC but not here in Cheyenne."

CS
CSD Staff

February 13, 20244 min read

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This week, we gaveled in the House and Senate chambers for the Budget Session of the 67th Wyoming Legislature. It is an honor to preside over these esteemed institutions, and we are humbled to represent the hardworking men, women, and families of our great state. Our work is cut out for us, and we have a short window to get it done.

During the truncated 20-day Budget Session, which convenes on even years, legislators’ primary charge will be to pass a balanced budget. That began on Day One.

Legislators were provided a copy of the draft budget, which was created through weeks of hearings and mark-ups in the Joint Appropriations Committee (JAC).

The committee’s budget saves more than the governor recommended, saving $310 million in general funds and $200 million in education savings, while spending $30 million less than the governor’s proposal. Members of the JAC deserve recognition for their hard work to get here.

Of course, both chambers will debate and amend this draft further. It’s a long road before the process is finished. Our top priority will be to ensure fiscal accountability and good stewardship of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars. Fiscal conservatism has served our state well through good times and bad, and we mean to uphold that standard. That means prioritizing long-term savings for future generations, being prudent with spending, and balancing the budget, as the Wyoming Constitution requires.

Let’s also be clear. Wielding the budget as a political litmus test or for ideological chest-thumping is not being conservative. That’s obstructionism.

That brand of politicking may fly in DC but not here in Cheyenne.

There are many areas where we must invest – property tax relief, Wyoming’s energy and mineral industries to meet market demands, infrastructure, and caring for our most vulnerable citizens.

These needs are too great and too important to our long-term economic growth to take a back seat to political showboating. The bottom line is we must put our state and our constituents ahead of politics and game playing.

We know the people in our districts are very concerned about property tax reform. The influx of new residents into Wyoming has brought to light the need for real property tax solutions. Home and property values have skyrocketed in certain areas of the State, driving up residential property taxes. Despite having some of the lowest property taxes in the country, the burden has fallen hard on long-time homeowners. It has put purchasing a home out of reach for many young people and driven up rents.

Property taxes are our top priority, as we know they are for many residents. We plan to introduce these bills at the front end of the session and look forward to working with our colleagues to get them past the finish line. This is one of many areas that we hope and trust legislators can find consensus, because it is too important to kick down the road.

There are many more bills slated for consideration over the next four weeks. The biggest challenge will be allocating time on the floors to work through every member’s priorities. We invite the public to help inform the process by reading and understanding legislation, providing testimony, and offering input. After all, we are a citizen legislature, and our job is to represent you, our constituents.

As we launch into the legislative session, we look forward to working with our colleagues, regardless of political differences or affiliations, to advance Wyoming’s interests and set our state on a continued path of growth and prosperity.

Albert Sommers is the Speaker of the House and has served In the Legislature since 2013. Ogden Driskill is the President of the Senate and has served in the Wyoming Legislature since 2011.

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