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Balancing the Budget; Week 5 in Cheyenne

Greetings WAC Community,

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  – I Timothy 6:17-18

The Wyoming State Legislature is deciding the supplemental budget bill.  Legislators are deciding, for example, whether funding is more important for programs for disabled children or for prevention of suicide and drug abuse, both of which are on the chopping block.  Some think they cannot restore both, even by a small percentage.  Legislators are deciding whether the annual tobacco tax settlement funds coming to the State of Wyoming should be placed in the corpus for future use or spent now so that the cuts aren’t quite so severe for prevention programs designed to save money down the road.  Cuts proposed for our public schools are huge, beyond comprehension and contrary to Wyoming’s Constitution, undoubtedly a challenge headed for Wyoming’s courts should legislators continue this path.

In the meantime, some seek new funds to boost the minerals industry that provides the bulk of tax revenues for Wyoming, like SF 132. Sponsors claim the bill’s purpose is to diversify the economy, but does little to do that.  However, diversifying the economy is not the problem; it’s diversifying the revenues.  Legislators are reluctant to talk about that.  A bill projected to raise $9 million annually is a 30 cent/pack tax increase on cigarettes, a token amount and not even enough to discourage tobacco use.  That first failed the House, but was re-considered and barely passed.  It’s in the Senate now.  Wyoming has one of the lowest tobacco taxes in the nation and definitely the lowest in the region.  This is just one of many possible sources of revenue.

When a family doesn’t have enough money to care for the children, the family either has to dip into savings or to find additional income or both.  That’s where Wyoming is right now.  The approach by Wyoming’s legislature appears instead to ask Wyoming’s most vulnerable to fend for themselves without enough to survive on.  Wyoming is a rich state and has enough that all of us should be thriving.  Prevention programs are an effective way to invest in our future.  Investing in sinking ships that only benefit a few is not.  Wyoming has the potential to raise more revenues.

Thanks to all of you who donated to the ads to show support of Muslims and refugees.  I hope you saw it in today’s Casper Star Tribune or Cheyenne Tribune Eagle.

The two proposals supported by the tribes and the Wind River Native Advocacy Center continue to move forward:

  • HJ 8 – A resolution for federal responsibility for American Indian health care passed the Senate Rules Committee and is now on General File to be brought to the floor.
  • HB 76 – American Indian education program to include Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho history, contributions and culture in the curriculum in our public schools is before the Senate Education Committee Monday morning.

Five weeks down and three to go in Cheyenne!

Fear not. Be bold. Do justice.

Blessings,

Chesie

P.S. The Wyoming Association of Churches appreciates your many financial gifts for our justice work in Wyoming for the oppressed.  Click here.  Or mail your contribution to WAC, PO Box 1473, Laramie, WY 82073.

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