Wyoming Legislature Leaders Outline Priorities for General Session
Wyoming Senate President Ogden Driskill and Speaker of the House Albert Sommers -- both Republicans -- outlined their priorities for the 67th General Session Legislature in a joint statement on Monday.
Driskill and Sommers focused on allocating a new and rare $2 billion budget surplus, practicing fiscal responsibility, reducing property tax burdens, making decisions about education and infrastructure, and promoting economic growth and diversification.
Driskill has served in the Wyoming Legislature since 2011. Sommers has served In the Legislature since 2013.
K2 Radio News is printing their statement verbatim.
"This week we had the great honor of calling to order the start of the 67th General Session of the Wyoming State Legislature. Now begins the hard work on behalf of the residents of our great state.
"We are committed to upholding the rules and traditions of this institution to ensure fairness and respect, building up leaders at every level and debating policies on merit and substance. Wyoming solutions are needed to address the challenges that lie ahead. We have never taken our cues from Washington, D.C., and it would be a grave mistake to start now. The people of our great state deserve better.
"To be sure, we have our work cut out. During this session the Legislature will decide how to allocate a nearly $2 billion budget surplus. Much of this is a one-time windfall, which owes to improved revenues from oil and gas production, smart investments, and federal stimulus spending. It does not represent a wholesale change to our long-term economic outlook.
"As the House and Senate have in years past, we will prioritize savings—with the goal of putting these funds into short, mid and long-term endowments and savings that will benefit future generations. We are stewards of taxpayers’ money, and, as recent history has shown, it’s not a matter of whether the good times will last, but rather how long until they run out.
"We are committed to fiscal responsibility and reducing tax burdens that are hurting the men and women who are working hardest. In fact, our state is on the cusp of a residential property tax crisis, in which hardworking families are often faced with the unimaginable decision of selling their home just to pay the tax bill. In the supplemental budget bill, the Legislature has fully funded the Property Tax Refund Program at $5 million to provide relief to our most vulnerable, like retirees and critical workers, who are facing financial hardships due to inflationary pressures. We will continue to fight for commonsense solutions to cap or rollback property tax increases and make our tax structure simpler and fairer.
"As we consider spending, our focus will be on our state’s greatest needs, like education and infrastructure, creating efficiencies and removing bureaucratic red tape in the way of economic growth and protecting Wyoming’s most vulnerable citizens.
"Funding an education system that prepares all our young people to succeed is perhaps the highest duty of the Legislature. Every dollar invested wisely in our schools benefits our communities, and we will work to establish sustainable revenue streams that ensure Wyoming remains a leader in education nationally and globally.
"At the same time, we will strive to craft policy that fosters economic growth and diversification—to help create economic opportunity and stop the “brain drain” of young people having to move out of state to find good jobs. Over the past decade Wyoming has offset its reliance on mineral extraction revenues by nearly 20 percent. That is a remarkable accomplishment that owes to pragmatic policymaking that has made Wyoming a destination for new industries.
"Finally, we will continue to support Wyoming’s traditional energy producers, which have been and will remain a key driver of our economy. Forward-looking investments in carbon capture and hydrogen production, as examples, are helping to secure a cleaner, independent energy future for our state and our country. And this progress is far from done.
"Wyoming is one of only a few states with a citizen legislature. Our members come from all walks of life. The diverse personal and professional experiences each brings are tremendous assets. We look forward to drawing on that collective knowledge and working with all members to set our great state on a path of continued opportunity and prosperity. And we hope you, the residents of Wyoming, will join us."