Budget Impasse Could Force Wyoming Lawmakers Into Overtime
It is looking increasingly likely that the two houses of the Wyoming Legislature won't be able to reach a budget agreement in time for the 2018 Budget Session to adjourn on Friday, as had been originally planned.
A conference committee made up of five members from each house hasn't been able to hammer out an agreement acceptable to both houses. The committee met on Friday and Monday without reaching an agreement. A meeting that had been scheduled for Tuesday afternoon was canceled.
The big stumbling block is how to handle an education funding shortfall estimated at between $660 million and $850 million. The Senate's budget calls for cutting roughly $75 million in school funding, while the House budget calls for about $30 million in cuts.
An improving state economy has raised hopes for increased revenues, but no one knows how much extra money may come in or even if the recent economic uptick will continue.
Such disputes are not new.
During the last Budget Session of the legislature in 2016, a similar disagreement between the two houses over school funding also threatened to extend the session. But lawmakers were able to avoid that possibility with a compromise that cut roughly $32.5 million.
The 2018 session was originally scheduled to run through Friday, March 9, with an option to meet on Saturday if needed. But under Wyoming law Governor Matt Mead has three days to issue a line-item veto of budget items. That means if lawmakers want to try to override a potential veto, they need to be able to meet at least three days after sending the governor the budget. At last report on Tuesday evening that hadn't happened.
Since the legislature adjourned two days early in 2017, they could take those two days and use them at the beginning of next week.
If that still isn't enough time, a special session of the legislature looms as a very real possibility. Exactly when that might be held isn't yet known.