CHEYENNE — The Senate suspended its rules Wednesday and filed four new spending bills as it and the House try to bridge about a $70 million difference in their two proposed budgets.
Senate leadership described it as an effort to ensure the state funds critical needs, including education, in case an agreement can’t be reached between the two chambers.
But the move to introduce spending bills after the filing deadline has passed, and in the midst of budget negotiations, could be read as the Senate trying to force the House’s hand. Currently, the House’s budget, including the external cost adjustment for schools, is about $70 million higher than the Senate.
One of the four bills, Senate File 166, is the appropriation authorization for the other three bills. Those bills would allocate money toward the external cost adjustment for education funding, money for commercial air service, the Department of Health and the Department of Family Services.
Senate President Drew Perkins, R-Casper, said the four bills weren’t an indication the Senate and House weren’t going to be able to reach an agreement on the state budget. Instead, it was merely a precaution to ensure that no matter what happened in negotiations, the critical needs of the state were going to be financed.
“If the Senate and House can’t come to an agreement on the budget bill, then those (bills) provide a method to take care of a few items that we can’t leave Cheyenne without resolving,” Perkins said. “It was just coming down and trying to say if we can’t come to an agreement on the budget, we’ve got to have a way to make sure that there’s a few things that just have to happen or the state will really be hurt.”
Sens. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, and Mike Gierau, D-Jackson, are sponsors on all four bills, and both said the move is about making sure the critical needs identified in the supplemental budget would be funded. Both said they thought the negotiations between the House and Senate would end up without a resolution. A big portion of the $70 million difference is in education funding. The House increased the external cost adjustment for schools, which helps defray the effect of inflation on the education budget formula, by about $21 million over what was included by the JAC.
By Ramsey Scott
Wyoming Tribune Eagle Via Wyoming News Exchange