Lawmakers have a budget, but strip out education to do it

WYOMING – It looks like Wyoming has a budget for the next two years. The joint budget conference committee unanimously approved HB1, the state budget bill. The Wyoming Legislature reached a unique agreement yesterday that will essentially use the House’s version of the bill one year and the Senate’s funding model the next.

What hasn’t been decided is exactly where education stands. The House and Senate have clashed over funding education. That gap remains as the budget bill was decided with education basically stripped out of it for now.

Anything is possible in the coming days as bills head to the House and the Senate later today, and then to the Governor’s desk. The Governor will have three days to consider the budget and any line-item vetoes.

The Wyoming Education Association weighed in today.

“We are grateful for the work of many legislators, particularly in the House, who have steadfastly fought for public schools. We are disappointed with the rigid approach of some, particularly in the Senate, who refuse to fund education over the next biennium without making drastic and harmful cuts,” said Kathy Vetter, WEA president.

Facing a $660 million, final news of cuts to public education is yet to come as WEA and other education advocates nervously await news out of Cheyenne.

According to WEA, if cuts are made in final decisions, public schools will suffer not only the cuts of this budget, but also the cuts made in two previous sessions, as well as the legislature’s failure to adjust the funding model for increased real-world costs over the past several years.

“We have seen some school closures, some reductions in force, and some curtailing of programs, and we fear those trends will now escalate. The legislature needs to get past any illusion that we can somehow cut our way out of the problem,” Vetter added.

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