CHEYENNE — Both Houses of the Wyoming Legislature voted handily Friday to approve a supplemental budget bill that calls on state agencies to prepared detailed plans in coming years for possible future funding cuts.
Legislative leaders said Gov. Matt Mead will receive the budget bill on Tuesday.
The supplemental budget calls for spending roughly an additional $78 million on top of the $3.2 billion state funds budget lawmakers approved last year for the biennium that runs through mid-2014. That $78 million is the increase after accounting for $61 million in state agency budget reductions in the budget.
Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and was leader for his house in the conference committee negotiations this week on the budget bill.
“The overriding factor that I took away from the budget was the commitment that the Legislature has now made to looking long-term and to build the Permanent Wyoming Mineral Trust Fund,” Bebout said Friday.
The Legislature rejected Mead’s proposals to reduce the amount of state money flowing into inaccessible permanent savings by hundreds of millions to pump up the state’s accessible rainy day fund, or Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account.
Mead has warned the state could need more readily accessible cash in coming years to fund state operations in the face of projected flat energy revenues.
Bebout and other legislative leaders have disagreed with Mead’s suggestion to reduce the flow of money into the state’s permanent fund. They said they want to increase the fund so the state will be able to rely on more interest from it in the future.
The budget bill the Legislature approved Friday calls for spending $55 million toward the construction of a new engineering building at the University of Wyoming. It also includes a $20-million appropriation to local governments.
Despite such one-time expenditures, the supplemental budget requires most state agencies to present proposed budget reductions of 4, 6 and 8 percent for both years of the 2015-16 biennium.
The Wyoming Department of Health is required to present proposed reductions of 2, 4 and 6 percent. The budget requires the state court system, which spend nearly all its money on personnel, to present a proposal for a flat budget as well as a proposal for 2-percent cuts in the coming funding cycle.
This supplemental budget is the first, at least in recent years, to seek to require the governor’s budget staff to prepare such detailed, multi-year budget reduction plans.
Most state employees haven’t seen a pay raise in several years and would receive a 1-percent bonus under the budget that passed Friday. School employees, who generally receive annual salary increases, will see bonuses on a sliding scale depending on the level of their other raises.
The budget calls for allocating just under $1.3 million to fund the superintendent of public instruction’s office, which was separated from the state Department of Education by a new law the Legislature enacted this session. The budget would give the superintendent’s office eight employee positions.
At the University of Wyoming, lawmakers adopted an unusual amendment that would require UW trustees to report back to the Legislature and propose new policies. The policies would require more oversight on a range of campus issues, including installation of permanent art work, hiring of faculty and the possible razing of historic buildings.
Lawmakers also voted to put up $5 million for renovation of the Arena Auditorium at the UW that Mead hadn’t requested.
Mead had called for $60 million from reserve funds to fight wildfires in the coming year. The Legislature approved $32 million, and said Mead could draw another $5 million from a landfill fund if necessary.