January 18, 2021
ESPC to host lawmakers, economist to talk real-life implications of budget decisions
LARAMIE, Wyo — As part of its monthly People’s Review: Live! online series, the nonpartisan Equality State Policy Center will host a panel of state legislative leaders and a prominent Wyoming economist to discuss whether the current state budget adequately aligns with the priorities, values, and needs of Wyomingites.
The roundtable discussion, “Does the Wyoming State Budget Reflect Our Values?” will take place from 5-6 p.m. on Thursday, January 21, via Zoom.
The event is free and open to the public, and people can register online at https://equalitystate.org/the-peoples-review/ to receive an invitation to join live.
As Wyoming leaders grapple with how to balance the state’s budget in the face of significant shortfalls and diminishing revenue streams, they face a series of choices that will have on-the-ground consequences for the people and communities of Wyoming for years to come.
“The state budget is a roadmap to the future,” said ESPC executive director Chris Merrill. “Handled well, with the right investment in the right places, it can help carry us forward to better times. Done poorly, which is what we saw happen in Kansas a few years ago, and we’ll find ourselves much worse off than we are right now. This is a choice we make together.”
Late last year, Governor Mark Gordon proposed a budget with what he called “devastating” cuts. Despite being roughly $1 billion dollars smaller than the budget the Legislature approved just two years earlier, the proposal would still not be lean enough to make up for severe shortfalls projected in the coming years.
“Right now, we’re seeing deep cuts to what many would deem essential services,” said Merrill. “Mental health programs for kids. In-home care for older Wyomingites. What we’re not seeing are thoughtful, substantive solutions on the revenue side that could alleviate some of these painful cuts and, at the same time, get us on track for a strong couple of decades. Is this who we want to be? Maybe. But it’s a question the public needs to be asking of their leaders—and answering for themselves.”
“Does the Wyoming State Budget Reflect Our Values?” will feature former Speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives Steve Harshman; House Minority Whip Andi Clifford; Co-chairman of the Senate Revenue Committee Cale Case; and U.W. economics professor Rob Godby.
“A budget is moral document,” said Merrill. “It’s the line-by-line answer to the question of: Who and what do we care about? Let’s talk about how Wyoming measures up.”