Upcoming Budget Session

Dave Kinskey (R – Senate District 22)

The state budget has two parts:  revenues and expenditures.  The majority of revenues come, directly and indirectly, from oil, gas and coal.  All three are down.  Experience tells us hard times are ahead.  Families and businesses have had to tighten their belts.  The state must do the same.

But where and how?  The majority of state expenditures are health care, education and the justice system, particularly prisons.  Not as large a percentage, but important, are water development, roads, fulfilling our commitments to our veterans, and other compelling needs.

What about those savings reserves we’ve heard so much about?  There’s $1.8 billion in the Legislative Stabilization Account (LSRA) plus anything else that might be squirrelled away.  But we should not be too quick to break open the piggy bank.  A “rainy day” can turn into a rainy decade – or two.  It’s happened before.

I recently heard a veteran legislator recall that the state had reserves leading into the bust of the 1980s – and spent them.  Then along came the 90s – and with no recovery for the Wyoming economy – the piggy bank was empty.  We didn’t get a big uptick until the CBM boom at the turn of the 21st century.

Our first resort should be to look at expenditures.  Local governments in Johnson and Sheridan County have already undertaken to cut budgets.  The state must do the same.

We need to be as careful as possible with all expenditures – make sure every dollar we spend is really needed.  Wyoming spends $9.3 billion in state and federal dollars every two years.  As state budgets are being prepared, it would seem reasonable, as has been done in the past, to ask every department to submit their plans for reductions in their budgets for the coming years.

Reductions can’t be the same for all areas.  We need to make sure that critical investments like education continue even if we are forced to tighten our belt elsewhere.  We must develop our water resources.  We have obligations to our veterans that must be fulfilled.  Other areas of the budget will have greater sacrifice.  Across the board cuts are not the way to go, but work only if there is no other way to get agreement.

A tone of austerity should be set by revisiting the approval of $300 million for the State Capitol project, and approval of millions for a new pool and an irrigation system for the University and its golf course, and other spending I and others opposed, unsuccessfully, in the last legislative session.  I am proud to be an UW alumni, but reportedly over a billion dollars has gone into construction at the university over the last ten years – the pool and the golf course can wait.

A twenty day budget session begins in Cheyenne on February 8, 2016.  It’s going to be a tough one.  Still, I’m convinced that, working together, our state can pull through and come out the other side tougher than before.  We’ve weathered tight times in the past.  We can do it again.

Dave Kinskey represents Wyoming Senate District 22, consisting of Johnson County and eastern Sheridan County.  A businessperson, Kinskey is the former Mayor of Sheridan.  He can be reached at or cell .