Category archive

News - page 404

Don Day’s Wyoming Weather Forecast for Wednesday, February 12

in Uncategorized/News
3041

Welcome to Wednesday, February, You’re watching the Day weather podcast.

Let’s take a look at the snowfall forecast. Notice we continue to see — not a lot — but a little of snow coming thru the Rockies and the High Plains. 

There’s a system coming in today and early Thursday that will spread a little bit of light snow. 

You can see while it’s not heavy we are talking about a dusting — one to two inches of snow on the plains east of the Divide. You can see a little bit more snow falling on the mountain ranges as you would expect.

Cold air will continue to funnel in out of Canada. So it’s going to be pretty chill. A little bit of snow, lot a lot of snow but enough to be a nuisance.

It’s still going to make the roads icy across the region. This is especially true across the higher mountain passes of Colorado, I-80, I-25, I-90 across northeastern Wyoming. 

We have slick roads just about everywhere due to recent snow events and the fact that it continues to be cold and it will stay cold.

Temps for another day or two will be pretty chilly. They will warm up a little as we get into Friday and Saturday.

Beyond Saturday, we are going to keep our eye on a developing storm system that could come in Sunday into President’s Day Monday.

This is the basic upper level jet stream by Monday morning. Notice there is a trough coming in right here coming into southwestern Wyoming and northeastern Utah.

this chart we’re showing you is from the European model. It is a bit stronger than the American models but it is something we need to watch.

We’ve seen systems like this right around the President’s Day weekend that sometimes show up and comes thru before heading out to the East. So if you have a three day weekend coming up, you’ll want to keep a close eye on the weather. There could be a little more snow in the forecast.

Taking a look 10 days from now. Notice the jet stream flow kinda of straightens out. Low out here on the west coast that meanders around. More in the way of Pacific air coming in.

We talked about this yesterday. After the 20th or so it doesn’t look as cold. But it does look like a busy weather pattern especially as we get to the end of February and the beginning of March.

There’s a lot of winter weather on the table. Nothing too bad for the next few days. But do be ready for cold and just enough snow to be a nuisance.

For folks who follow the Day weather podcast, one thing we talk about is the sun, cosmic rays, solar activity

We are at a solar minimum right now — the strongest solar minimum in over 100 years. One thing that we keep track of is the amount of cosmic rays hitting the Earth.

Right here is where we are right now with cosmic rays. The space age record goes back to 2009 in the last solar minimum. We are really close to breaking this record.

Cosmic rays have been tracked since 1964. So this solar minimum which broke records in 2019 could break the record for the most amount of cosmic rays hitting the Earth here in early 2020.

Why is this important?  Solar activity has show to make connection with long term climate and weather trends.

Low solar activity has an impact that can make more clouds on the earth and can make it a little bit cooler.

Something we will continue to watch for you as the solar minimum is currently bottoming out right now over the next two or three months. It is interesting to watch.

Thanks for watching the Day Weather podcast, we will talk to you on Thursday.

Cheyenne Students Ask Josh Allen to Come Back for Read Across America Week

in News/Education
3034

Students at Prairie Wind Elementary School in Cheyenne are asking Buffalo Bills quarterback — and former University of Wyoming standout — Josh Allen to return to the Cowboy State in March.

The students asked Allen via video to join them for Read Across America Week which begins on March 2.

“If you are able to come, you will have a chance to meet your number one fans and the coolest kids around,” said one student in the video. 

Another student, donning a Buffalo Bills hat, asked the gymnasium full of students who they all loved. 

“Josh Allen!” the students yelled followed by an eruption of screams and cheers.

 Principal Lisa Weigel told Buffalo TV station WKBW that the students chose Allen because he’s a great role model.

“Our kids really know how to work hard, they have an all in attitude and it’s something [Josh Allen] approaches in everything he does so we couldn’t think of a better role model,” Weigel said. “Come back to where everything started for you, come back and share with students the incredible things you’ve accomplished due to your hard work.” 

Interstate 80 Toll Road Bill Dies Quick Death

in News/Transportation
3031

If you were worried about Interstate 80 turning into a toll road, put those worries to bed.

A bill that could have eventually turned the oftentimes treacherous 403 mile stretch into a toll road was killed on Tuesday — failing to receive enough votes in the Senate for introduction.

Sen. Michael Von Flatern (R-Gillette) was the primary sponsor of the bill. Von Flatern told Cowboy State Daily in September that without tolling, the State of Wyoming won’t have adequate funds to keep roads maintained.

“We’re losing ground on our roads,” he said in September. “We’re not improving them at all. Right now, we are missing $40 million just to keep the I-80 corridor in its present condition.”

“We’ve skinnied down this budget to a point where our state is not going to be able to manage cuts anymore without cutting services completely and turning many of our roads into dirt roads,” he said.

Interview with Sen. Michael Von Flatern

FCC Chairman Visits Wind River Reservation for Gigabit-Speed Broadband Deployment

in News/Technology
Wyoming broadband
3029

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai visited the Wind River Reservation on Tuesday to tour areas that are receiving funding from the FCC to deploy gigabit-speed broadband.

Wind River Internet is receiving over $4 million from the Connect America Fund Phase II auction to deploy gigabit speed service to 849 rural homes and businesses on the reservation.

“Bringing high-speed connectivity to rural Tribal lands can be a game-changer,” said Chairman Pai.

“That’s why bridging the digital divide is my top priority,” Pai said. “I was pleased to have the opportunity to visit the Wind River Indian Reservation today to see firsthand the gigabit-speed broadband deployment. This will be critical to providing those living there with access to digital opportunity.”

The Connect America Fund Phase II auction is part of a broader effort by the FCC to close the digital divide in the United States.

In addition to the funding that is being made available through this auction, the FCC recently voted to launch the $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which will further advance broadband deployment throughout rural America, including on Tribal lands. 

Lodging Tax: $21.5 Million Raised Statewide in 2019

in News/Taxes/Tourism
Lodging tax
3025

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Because of the importance of tourism to local economies throughout the state, many counties are making the most of an optional tax that allows them to lure visitors, bringing much-needed tourism dollars to sluggish economies.

According to the Wyoming Travel Industry Coalition, the local option lodging tax works well as a source of revenue for local tourism promotion. 

A report released by the state shows that more than $21.5 million dollars was raised by lodging taxes statewide in 2019. 

Income from the lodging tax, which is assessed in addition to sales taxes, is earmarked for local travel promotion. The tax, which ranges from 2 percent to 4 percent, must be approved by local voters every four years. 

None of the lodging tax revenues can be used for projects outside of tourism advertising and promotion — no capital construction, no general funding for cities, towns and counties. 

But for many local governments, that tax income is a jump-start for the economy.

Claudia Wade, executive director for the Park County Travel Council, said that because of the lodging tax, the council can spend more dollars advertising attractions and recreation, which influences travelers’ decisions to stay longer in the area.

Because of its location, Park County is a natural draw for tourists heading to Yellowstone National Park. 

Wade said that because of the advertising financed with lodging tax revenue, more people are drawn to the region as tourists, which then allows more locals to stay employed.

“Because the lodging tax is collected on top of the sales tax, when visitors come to the area, they bring in more revenue that can be used for general fund purposes for local governments,” Wade said.

“Those expenditures have a big impact on our economics. The businesses that they’re frequenting also are hiring employees — which means those front line workers and workers behind the scenes all benefit from the tourism industry and visitors coming to the area.”

What the lodging tax does in Park County is indicative of its impact across the rest of the state. Laramie County received more than $2 million in lodging tax revenue last year, while Casper and the local governments in Natrona County received $1.8 million.

Park County, with Yellowstone as a major tourism draw, took in more than $3 million, and Teton County received more than $7.7 million in lodging tax dollars.

Wyoming law specifies that the tax must be used for travel and tourism promotion by the county or city approving the tax, and is limited to promotional materials, television and radio advertising, printed advertising, promotion of tours and other specific tourism related objectives. 

Wade pointed out that Park County does what most other counties do with the funds.

“We pay for connect TV ads, some print, there is some digital, and a lot of social media,” she explained, “so it’s a big mix – much bigger than when it was when we initially started in 1986.” 

Brook Kaufman is CEO of Visit Casper. She said the lodging tax makes a huge difference in the local economy in Natrona County.

“I think there is a perception that Natrona County doesn’t have a robust tourism economy, but we do,” she said. “It employs just over 2,600 people, generates almost $300 million in direct spend and $15 million in sales tax. For us, tourism is really critical to employment.”

Kaufman said Visit Casper invests the lodging tax dollars in marketing programs that drive return visits, which creates jobs and sales tax collections for both cities and counties. 

A statewide lodging tax bill is being proposed again this year at the Wyoming legislature, which Wade said would assist not only the individual counties, but the entire state.

“The lodging tax is important as a whole to the state — that additional money could be very beneficial to the Wyoming Office of Tourism, which has a broader reach than our local organizations,” Wade explained.

The Wyoming Travel Industry Coalition reports that the lodging tax makes up about 18 percent of the tax dollars from travelers. While a study by the American Economics group in 2008 concluded high room taxes can influence travelers’ decisions to stay in a certain city for any length of time, Wade said that’s not much of a concern in Wyoming.

“Our lodging tax rate here in Wyoming is fairly insignificant compared to other regions,” she said, noting that states such as Michigan (at 12 percent) and Connecticut (at 15 percent) have significantly higher lodging taxes than in the Cowboy State. 

Only five states have lodging tax rates lower than Wyoming, according to a report issued by the National Council of State Legislatures.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon Delivers 2020 State of the State Address

in News/politics
Mark Gordon file photo
3010

By Bob Geha, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s economy and its people are strong. That is the central message of Gov Mark Gordon’s second State of the State address.

The governor delivered his speech to a joint session of the Wyoming Legislature Monday morning kicking off the 2020 Budget Session.

“We are strong because of our people,” Gov. Gordon said. “We are strong because we have planned well for challenging times. We are strong because of industries: energy, tourism, agriculture, and the emerging sectors of knowledge-based business and manufacturing.”

The governor said the time has come to have a serious conversation about the budget and the future of state revenues.

“We have savings,” he said. “This means we have time. Not a lot of time. But time to make thoughtful decisions about our future and our budget.”

“The budget I presented you which the Joint Appropriations Committee passed was intended to trigger a serious conversation about future. Ways to diversity our economy and ways to strengthen our state.”

Meanwhile, the governor is pushing for bonuses for state employees. He is proposing one time funding of $20 million and speaks to the value of the state’s workforce.

“We continually need to train new employees who then become better candidates for positions in other states with better pay scales,” he said. “This is unacceptably expensive and it is very costly.  We should be thinking about keeping the people who know what to do and how to do it.”

Gov Gordon was very vocal about the global pushback on fossil fuels which have driven Wyoming’s economy for so many years.

“We produce better energy more safely and more attention to the environment than anywhere else on the planet. And yet our industries are still discriminated against, maligned, and decried as dead,” he said. “Well, not on my watch.”

And the couple hundred million will have to come out of savings to make up the shortfall in education funding.

At the same time, the state will look at readjusting the K-12 funding model.

The governor is also asking the legislature to cut back on capital construction.

Robert Geha, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming Legislature: Medicaid Expansion Bill Fails Introduction

in Government spending/News/politics
3017

A measure that would have laid out a plan for the expansion of Medicaid insurance coverage to more Wyoming residents failed to win introduction Monday on the first day of the Legislature’s budget session.

House Bill 75, which would have authorized the state to work with federal authorities to create a plan to expand Medicaid coverage, failed to collect the votes of two-thirds of the House members needed for it to be considered during the budget session.

The bill, sponsored by the Legislature’s Revenue Committee, died on a vote of 21-36. All bills not related to the budget must win support from 40 representatives to move forward in the legislative process.

Backers said Medicaid expansion would provide coverage for about an additional 19,000 Wyoming residents at a cost of about $18 million every two years.

State of the State Reaction: “Thank God for the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund”

in News/politics
Sara Burlingame
3014

By Bob Geha, Cowboy State Daily

Legislative reaction to Gov Gordon State of the State address was mild and agreeable although both of their budgets are miles apart.

“If you look at our budget in the legislature versus the governor’s budget, they aren’t the same at all. We want very different things. But look at how much goodwill we have for each other, ” Rep. Sara Burlingame, D-Cheyenne, said.

“I think there is such warmth and mutual understand between the legislative body and the governor and that’s a really good sign going into the budget session where we don’t agree about a lot of where that money is going to go,” she said.

“Thank God for our forefathers and putting together that Permanent Mineral Trust Fund. It saved our bacon and it will continue to keep us safe from very drastic cuts,” Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, said.

No mention of Medicaid expansion in Governor Gordon’s address. House Bill 75 would authorize the state to come up with an expansion plan.

“Frankly I was disappointed that he didn’t,” Sen. Mike Gierau, D-Jackson, said. “But I understand. We’ve talked to the governor quite a bit about it and I think he’s evolving in that position. Hopefully we can get a bill out for him to take a look at.”

Gieurau also says the governor is sticking his neck out for Wyoming tourism by supporting a statewide lodging tax.

Robert Geha, Cowboy State Daily.

Guns, Taxes, and Time: Bob Geha’s Wyoming Legislature Preview

in News/politics
Bob Geha
2986

By Bob Geha, Cowboy State Daily

Governor Mark Gordon will kickoff the 2020 Legislative Budget Session with his second State of the State Address Monday morning.  Videographer Mike McCrimmon and I will be covering the action for Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s Legislature opens up its budget session on Monday and the majority of action will be focused around the proposed $3 billion budget that will finance state programs for the next two years.

However, the budget is not the only topic that will keep legislators busy for the next 20 or so days. Proposed bills pre-filed for consideration during the budget session include legislation on firearm regulation, taxes, and daylight savings time.

Below is a list of some bills the Legislature will review after Gov. Mark Gordon issues his second state-of-the-state address on Monday.

HB 28, Firearm Regulation: The bill would prohibit government entities from using public money to run firearm and ammunition “buyback” programs.

HB 78, Firearms in Private Vehicles: Preventing private entities from prohibiting the storage of firearms in their parking lots. Exemptions would be allowed for the parking lots of schools, government entities and religious organizations.

SF 80, Handgun Purchases: The bill would require a 3-day waiting period for firearm purchases.

HB 63, Fuel Tax Increase: Increasing gasoline taxes by 3 cents per gallon to a total of 27 cents.

HB 64, National Corporate Income Tax: The bill would impose a 7 percent corporate income tax on businesses with more than 100 shareholders. It is similar to a measure that was approved last year by the House but killed in the Senate.

HB 44, Daylight Savings Time: Permanently shifting Wyoming to Daylight Savings Time if surrounding states do the same and the change is approved by the federal govenrment.

HB 98, “Defend the Guard Act:” Specifying that members of the Wyoming National Guard could only be sent into battle if Congress declared war.

HB 75, Medicaid Expansion: Expanding Medicaid coverage to an estimated 19,000 Wyoming residents at a cost to the state of $18 million over the next two years.

SF 6: Tolling Authority on I-80: Setting a toll to travel Interstate 80. The revenue would be used for repairs on the highway.

SF 42, 50 and 52, Tobacco Sale Restrictions: Banning the sale of nicotine products in shops, online or by mail to anyone under the age of 21.

SJ 2, Restricting Legislative Spending: The bill would put before voters a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban legislators from appropriating money outside of budget sessions, which occur every even-numbered year. The bill would allow spending during those years only on issues deemed emergencies.

Because this is a budget session, all non-budget bills proposed must win the support of two-thirds of either the House or Senate to be considered.

Lawmakers will be able to continue filing proposed legislation for introduction until Friday.

How The Wyoming Legislature Builds the State Budget: A Primer

in Government spending/News/politics
Wyoming State Capitol
2992

By Laura Hancock, Cowboy State Daily

On Feb. 10, the 2020 Budget Session of the Wyoming Legislature officially begins, one that could be somber and frustrating — considering Gov. Mark Gordon has told lawmakers that after mandated expenses they only have around $23.5 million to work with.

As in prior budget sessions, the 12 members of the Joint Appropriations Committee, which crafts the state’s two-year spending bill, has met for a good chunk of December, poring over rows of numbers, grilling state agency heads and discussing the needs of the state. 

Most sections of the biennial state budget that lawmakers will pass will go into effect July 1 and end June 30, 2022. Read on to learn more about the JAC and the budgeting process. 

The Agencies

The budgeting process starts with the heads of state agencies, which fall under the executive branch, submitting budget requests to the governor budget in the autumn before budget sessions, which the Wyoming Constitution states must occur during even-numbered years.

The Governor

Each governor is required to release budget recommendations by Dec. 1 prior to a budget session, per the Constitution.

“What the governor does is he meets with all agencies and listens to their requests,” said John Hastert of Green River, a former Democratic lawmaker who served on JAC for about eight years.

The budget recommendations that the governor prepares for the Legislature show the agency requests and whether he accepts, modifies or rejects each one, Hastert said. 

Last month, Gov. Mark Gordon submitted budget recommendations with the expectation of around $3 billion in revenues from the General Fund — the state’s main bank account — and the Budget Reserve Account, which is akin to an overdraft account for the General Fund. 

Gordon largely recommended the Legislature keep spending low, considering the ongoing slump fossil fuel revenues, which most state leaders do not believe will be reversed any time soon, as the natural resources industry is undergoing fundamental changes. 

Gordon called for significant reduction in capital construction and limits on tapping the rainy day fund – to be used solely for legislatively-mandated educational needs and local governments. 

“We have only $23.5 million in structural (ongoing) funding available to

consider distributing during this biennium to any entity, including the entire executive branch, higher education, the Judicial Branch, and the Legislative Service Office,” Gordon said in his budget recommendations. “Additional spending cuts are on the horizon and appear imperative to keep Wyoming moving forward.”

Budget Hearings

During the first week of December, the governor and agency chiefs meet with the JAC and explain budget recommendations and requests.

This year, Gordon met with the JAC on Dec. 9. The agency heads met with the JAC through Dec. 20. 

JAC interviews with agencies are expected to continue into the beginning of January, from Jan. 6-10 and again from Jan. 13-17.

Hastert said the information during the interviews with the agencies is valuable: “They get first-hand information,” he said. 

JAC Markup

In the last two weeks in January, JAC markup begins. Lawmakers will start on the first pages of the governor’s budget recommendations and “mark up” the items with their own ideas of what the budget should look like. 

“They start with the governor’s recommendations and it’s either an ‘aye’ vote or ‘no’ vote or modify,” Hastert said. “Most of the time, it’s usually taking more of a cut. It’s just the nature of JAC to try to cut even further.”

The JAC’s version of the budget is the one that will be submitted for review by the Legislature.

Go to Top