Equality State Policy Center Projects

The Equality State Policy Center builds much of its accountability, advocacy, and civic participation program work around projects that help educate Wyoming people about the issues affecting them and that offer policy proposals and improvements to address those issues. Over the years, project topics have included campaign finance reform, education funding, lobbyist reporting reform, workers’ compensation reform, and tax policy. One of the Center’s most ambitious projects began in the 1990s when the ESPC launched its Legislative Accountability Project. Volunteer researchers compiled campaign contributions and campaign spending by candidates for the Wyoming Legislature, then tracked how legislators voted on key issues. These first were published on paper, thus becoming known as the LAP Book. Eventually, the ESPC made them available on line in a searchable database that enabled people from across the state to access this information previously available only at the Capitol in Cheyenne. Better state policies and technological advancements have enabled us to end the production of the biennial LAP Books. State law now requires political candidates to file their campaign contributions and spending reports electronically. The information from the 2010 campaign and future elections will be maintained on a searchable database at the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office. More recently, the ESPC began publishing its “State of Working Wyoming” reports every other year to assess the economic status of Wyoming workers and their families. This effort grew out of earlier work exploring, then explaining Wyoming’s gender wage gap. The ESPC was the lead advocate for legislative authorization of a study on gender wage gap, A Study of the Disparity in Wages and Benefits Between Men and Women in Wyoming.The ESPC also participated in development of The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Wyoming, which shows the wages needed to cover basic expenses for families of various configurations (e.g., one parent with a preschooler and a school-age child). A key effort under our civic participation program is the VOTE (Voter Organizing, Training and Empowerment) Project. Conducted in partnership with Western States Center, the goal of the VOTE Project is to organize, educate and mobilize voters and potential voters, particularly in historically under-participating communities and neighborhoods. In 2011, we launched a new project aimed at increasing income from the leasing of oil, gas, and other minerals owned by the state. These minerals lie beneath school trust lands and other state-owned lands. The Equality State Policy Center believes the public, which holds the property rights to both the surface and subsurface of these lands, deserves a greater share of the mineral wealth extracted by industry. (Read our August 2011 Op-Ed here.) Under current policy, the state requires a lessee to pay the state a royalty of 16.67 percent of the value of the production, minus certain deductions. But private landowners often get much higher royalties when they lease their minerals. The state should, too. We advocate a base royalty rate of 18.75 percent and support giving the Office of State Lands and Investments the authority to negotiate higher rates on the so-called “hot prospects.”