In case you couldn’t tell from our page one story on our local legislators’ budget talks with county commissioners, this is never a real fun time of year for elected officials in Wyoming.
In the couple of months prior to each legislative session, lawmakers are feeling the heat from local governments, state agencies and other interest groups who want assurances that they will be funded at the level they desire.
Those entities then spend the next couple of months waiting to see if the legislature and governor are going to provide them with the requested funds so they can set their own budgets by the beginning of their next fiscal year on July 1, and answer the questions they are being peppered with from their own departments and interest groups.
While we certainly understand the frustration felt at all levels of this process, we would argue that there is some merit in Wyoming’s annual exercise for funding government services, and believe the deadline driven nature of the state’s budgeting practices has probably helped Wyoming consistently avoid deficit spending.
Because the legislature and governor have largely rebuffed commitments to long-term funding formulas for the majority of entities that rely on state dollars, all of those entities do have to fight for their share of the pie every year, and that little mix of democracy and capitalism does produce a level of government accountability that is all too often lacking in this day and age.
We would agree that the state legislature should be willing to spend some more of its rainy day fund this year, and suggest that they expand on another current practice and allow much of it to be distributed through competitive grants. Those grants should largely go to communities that make compelling cases for the need to access those state resources. That means there will be winners and losers alike, but we all know it gets pretty expensive when you let everybody win.