The Wyoming State Legislature spent its first special session this year deciding how to spend the $1.25 billion the federal government doled out to Wyoming as part of the CARES Act.
That was easy.
Now comes the real work for the Wyoming legislature as lawmakers need to arrive at a solution dealing with the state’s looming revenue deficit ... a massive revenue deficit.
Between the enormous hit the oil and gas industry has taken and the loss of tourism revenue caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the state is facing a bleak financial picture.
Since the federal government funds by law cannot be used to supplement lost revenue or balance the state budget, lawmakers must come up with ways to increase state revenues, slash expenditures or a combination of both.
It is our guess that cities, towns and counties are going to be the hardest hit.
K-12 education expenditures appear to be a sacred cow that nobody dares touch. That means junior colleges throughout the state will probably take another funding hit.
Slashing budgets alone probably can’t fix the situation. So where is the additional revenue going to come from?
Income from severance taxes on minerals and gas and oil is looking bleak. Dipping into the state’s rainy day fund is a possibility. Instituting a state income tax has been whispered about. A massive increase in the sales tax percentage would be necessary to make up for other revenues.
Senate president Drew Perkins of Casper is anticipating another special session in June to deal with the revenue deficit.
Answers need to be found.