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Case says all education funding options must be reviewed

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By Cowboy State Daily

A proposed statewide property tax increase to raise money for the state’s schools must be one option reviewed by the Legislature as it tries to figure out the best way to fund education, according to the head of the Senate’s Revenue Committee.

Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, said Tuesday that all options, including the property tax increase proposed in House Bill 68, should be on the table as the Legislature works to solve problems with education funding.

The bill proposes raising property taxes by 9 mills, or $9 per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value, for use in funding education. The increase would take place over three years, with 3 mills being added every year in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

The tax increase could raise $70 million for schools, Case said, the same that might also be generated by boosting taxes on wind energy generated in Wyoming, an option he said might be more palatable to Wyoming’s residents.

“(If you) shift 90 percent of that tax to people in other states, that’s the win,” he said after the Legislature opened its 65th general session Tuesday.However, another veteran legislator, Sen. Hank Coe, chair of the Senate Education Committee, said he does not see much support for the property tax measure.

“Because property tax hits home through local ad valorem taxes and the mineral industry takes a hit there,” he said. “They also pay severance taxes to the state. So it’s a double hit for the mineral industry.”

HB 68 is one of almost 170 pieces of legislation awaiting action as the Legislature opens the first week of its session.

The House and Senate introduced about 30 bills during their first day of work and referred them to committees for further review.

The introduction of bills will continue Wednesday after Gov. Mark Gordon gives his first state-of-the-state address.

Important dates for legislative action

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By Cowboy State Daily

Even though the 2019 legislative session, with an allowable span of 40 business days, is a “long session,” Wyoming’s Legislature is under a relatively tight deadline to complete its work.

The Legislature opened its session on Tuesday and is scheduled to wrap up its work on Wednesday, Feb. 27. If that deadline is met, the session will have actually lasted only 35 days. The five extra days could be used, if necessary, to extend the length of the Legislature’s budget session in 2020, which is scheduled to run 20 days.

To keep on schedule, the Legislature’s leadership creates a calendar with deadlines for certain business to be completed.

Here is the 2019 session schedule:

  • Jan. 24: Final date for the filing of bills to be introduced in the Senate.
  • Jan. 29: Final date for the filing of bills to be introduced in the House.
  • Feb. 1: Last day for bills to be reviewed by committees in the chamber of origin.
  • Feb. 4: Last day for “Committee of the Whole.”
  • Feb. 6: Last day for third and final reading of bills in their chamber of origin.
  • Feb. 20: Last day for bills to be reviewed by committees in the second chamber.
  • Feb 21: Last day for “Committee of the Whole” on bills in the second chamber.
  • Feb. 25: Last day for third and final reading of bills in the second chamber.
  • Feb. 27: Last day for conference committee reports and tentatively scheduled adjournment.

Mark Gordon sworn in as 33rd Wyoming Governor

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Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon delivers speech at inauguration. (courtesy/Governor Mark Gordon Facebook page)

Gov. Mark Gordon unveiled his vision for the state on Monday with pledges to work for efficient government operations, increased opportunities for economic development at the local level and stable funding for the state’s school system.

In comments made during his inauguration at Cheyenne’s Civic Center, Gordon told the crowd of about 900 attending the ceremony that he is convinced that Wyoming’s future will be bright as long as it continues to build on its strengths.

“Looking back at the wisdom and prudence of those that came before us and reflecting on the potential of future generations, I believe more than ever that Wyoming is in a position to develop solutions to global challenges,” he said. “Those solutions will be rooted in our sense of place, our home and the things that we hold dear.”

Gordon, who served as state treasurer for six years before being elected governor, said the state’s leaders will have to balance wants and needs as they examine state spending.

“We will have choices to make that relate to government spending,” he said. “The services we have come to expect, and in some cases depend on, come with a price tag. We in Wyoming are not eager to take on new taxes and especially so if we have not done our best to control our expenditures.”

However, the answer will not lie in simply cutting expenses, Gordon said.

“I believe we will need to become more efficient and not just cheaper,” he said. “We need to become more effective, even as we become leaner, and we must invest in the people, programs and systems that will make it all possible.”

Gordon also stressed that the state should do what it can to encourage economic development at the local level.

“Rather than grow government, let us grow opportunity in the places we live,” he said. “To that end, my administration will work to assure that our towns and counties have the tools and resources they need to cultivate their own economies.”

The state’s future will also depend on the quality of its schools, Gordon said, promising to work toward a more stable system for funding education in Wyoming.

The inauguration ceremony for Gordon and the state’s four other top elected officials — Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, Treasurer Curt Meier, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow and Auditor Kristie Racines — was actually the second of the day. The five were first sworn into office during early-morning ceremonies inside the Wyoming Capitol, which is undergoing renovation.

“It was important to me that our terms begin in the people’s house and that they be affirmed here in this moment,” he said.

Also present at Monday’s inaugural were Wyoming’s three congressional delegates — U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney — and former Govs. Matt Mead, Dave Freudenthal, Jim Geringer and Mike Sullivan.

Gordon will issue his “state-of-the-state” address to Wyoming’s Legislature on Monday.

Wyoming’s top elected officials to take oaths of office

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Wyoming’s top officials will be sworn into office on Monday as three new officers and two returning officials take their oaths of office.

Gov. Mark Gordon, Treasurer Curt Meier and Auditor Kristie Racines, all elected to their posts in 2018, will be sworn into their new offices during ceremonies at 10:30 a.m. at Cheyenne’s Civic Center at 520 W. 20th St. 

Also being sworn in will be second-term Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow and Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, who was elected to his first full term in 2018 after taking over the office in March following the resignation of Ed Murray.

The inauguration of the five Republicans is open to the public at no charge, however, tickets are required for admission as seating is limited. The formal inauguration will be part of a day filled with events marking the event.Activities begin at 8:30 a.m. Monday with a prayer service at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church at 1908 Central Ave. in Cheyenne. Seating for the event will be limited.

Following the inauguration will be a public reception for the elected officials at 11:30 a.m. at the Wyoming State Museum at 2103 Central Ave.

The day will end with an inauguration gala at 7:30 p.m. at Little America Hotel at 2800 West Lincolnway. The event will be open to the public at a cost of $125 per person.

Gordon becomes Wyoming’s 33rd governor after serving for six years as the state’s treasurer.

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