The Sheridan Press

This was a short series of questions posed by Kristen Czaban from The Sheridan Press for an article to be published July 30th, I think.

What do you feel the purpose of the rainy day fund is?

I don't think the purpose has been defined. Has it? I think it could be for two things, in no particular order: One, it could be for one-time costs that would reduce annual spending year over year. For example, energy conservation measures in public buildings in a way that is planned and measured with a clearly defined payoff period. The second acceptable use might be ensuring we can go through 2 or 3 10% to 20% budget downturns without losing critical services. The critical services that should get first dibs on rainy day funds are teachers, family services, public health services, the arts, law enforcement and fire suppression services.

Should the state be dipping into it to cover the lean times?

Only as mentioned as above. If used for capital construction, it should only be used for buildings that will cost *less than* existing buildings per square foot in operating costs year over year for the next 3 budgets. It should not be used for vanity programs or any administrative salaries (see list in option two in answer to first question).

How would you approach cuts to the budget — across the board cuts of different cuts to different programs?

You know, I'd have to look at it line by line to see how across the board cuts would play out. But I like to think I'd start with administrative salaries. I think the hiring freeze was a good idea, although possibly 4 years too late. I'd try to draw up requirements asking grant recipients and tax-break recipients to demonstrate the return on the tax-payer's investment. I think this would result in a slow down on so called "economic development" which is often code for corporate welfare, which I generally oppose. Reading this paragraph, I guess the pattern is I'd start with cuts at the top, not the bottom.

How can Wyoming legislators help pull the state out of the downturn of the energy industry?

It isn't really Wyoming's job to fix the energy industry. That is a global issue. A market issue. So that's out. But Wyoming certainly should regulate and govern, i.e. limit, abuses of power in any industry. Am I wrong in saying that industry's leaders threw us some cash, did really well for themselves and left us in the desert with a heavy bottle of water and a decent pair of boots.

We kinda set ourselves up for this. Fixing it will likely be painful. Obviously there are two tools: increasing revenue and decreasing expenditures. So I wonder: Has that diversification train already left the station?

Keeping the pain in mind, as well as slippery slopes, I can list a few areas where I'd rather see the first tax increases. It has always made sense to me that we should tax the entities that actually have money, especially discretionary money. Doesn't seem smart to hit up people with income so low they can't even afford a good winter coat. One could consider luxury taxes. One could consider raising the minimum wage to a decent number (like a certain percentage of county average or something like that). Another idea that's been floated for years on the national stage and is more realistic in today's world of computers: taxing financial transactions. I'd be curious what that looks like in Wyoming. Okay. That was not a fun paragraph to write.

But raising more revenue without making sure the working people of Wyoming are getting along okay is a big mistake. We should strive to be more frugal and conscientious with our money. Wouldn't that be a good model for all of us? A big one for me is this: I'd like to see the state be more purposeful with capital construction projects. No, capital is not a pun there, but certainly could be! We should absolutely build things when we need them, if we can. But we should also, systematically, guided by policy saying it should happen, use new technologies (materials and designs) to reduce operating costs per unit relative to what is being replaced.

Aside from facilities, another thing I'd be taking a close look at are departments such as the business council. The council fiscal reports are all stellar, they do a good job handling the money in their hands. I mean, that's what they do, right? Still, there are administrative costs ($millions) there that give me pause. Also, the money they dole out into this black box called "economic development" causes one of my eyebrows to lift up. Anyway, That's the sort of legislation (Title 9, Chapter 12) that could absolutely be revisited. I'd just want to be sure we're getting what we're paying for. Nothing personal. Its just business. It isn't like art or humanities. Those are priceless.