In a close vote, the Wyoming legislature today passed small cuts to K-12 funding (0.5 percent, or $27 million statewide over two years) to otherwise scheduled spending increases while securing a large future earmark (about $90 million per biennium) for school district major maintenance. The earmark results from a creative bit of financial engineering by House Speaker Steve Harshman, R-Casper, who successfully advocated directing 45 percent of future deposits to the Strategic Investments Program Account from the permanent mineral trust fund reserve account to be used for school major maintenance. Given that the K-12 expected funding shortfall was $484 million over the next two years, school districts fared pretty well in the 2018 Budget session.
Most of the cuts are in non-instructional areas, such as a continued freeze on school bus purchases and by counting students by district rather than by school (to prevent double counting, as happens under current law). In the next school year, Sweetwater County School District No. 1 will see a decrease of 0.6 percent ($473,000), District No. 2 (Green River) will see a decrease of just 0.3 percent ($135,000). Laramie County School District No. 1 (Cheyenne) will see a 0.9 percent decrease ($1,873,000).
In other action, the Governor emerged a victor as the legislature failed to override any of his 9 vetoes, including the veto of SF74, critical infrastructure, which was designed to thwart eco-terrorism. SF74 would have imposed steep civil and criminal penalties on organizations that damage critical infrastructure during political protests, such as the “valve turners” who disrupt oil and gas distribution as part of climate change activism. The bill was, however, poorly worded and would have made every stock pond and abandoned well “critical infrastructure”.