‘Civility and Decorum’ necessary to achieve results for Wyoming

Recently the Wyoming Legislature gaveled in the start of the 67th Legislative Session. This year, I was elected by my colleagues to serve as Senate President, an honor I never imagined when I first stepped into the Capitol as a freshman senator more than a decade ago. In this role, I inherit a noble legacy of servant leadership — and a solemn charge to continue to build upon it.

The first week of session was dedicated to legislative ceremonies, taking the oath of office and orienting new members to the legislative processes and procedures. As a part of those rich traditions, I had the privilege to sit with House Speaker Albert Sommers and preside over a joint session as we welcomed Governor Gordon to hear his State of the State message.

During State of the State speeches, Governors typically recognize ordinary Wyoming people who have risen to the occasion for their fellow Wyomingites. Governor Gordon followed that custom, highlighting a number of exemplary Wyoming citizens. The Governor recognized Jason Perry of Hulett, who led an effort to get each of the Hulett EMTs certified as paramedics to ensure a high level of emergency medical care in that community. Also honored was Adjutant General Greg Porter of the Wyoming National Guard, for Wyoming citizens soldiers’ service and sacrifice. Todd Telesz, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of Basin Electric was applauded for his project at the Integrated Test Center in Gillette, which is advancing and deploying carbon capture technology. I was also happy to recognize Cheyenne Central High School’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) team which placed first in Wyoming and placed fourth nationally out of 34 teams when debating the Biden Administration’s America the Beautiful program. We are proud to know these fine Wyomingites.

As we get down to the business of the people, there is no doubt that we have our work cut out for us. During this session we will decide how to allocate a nearly $2 billion surplus. That is a significant pivot from two years ago, when the Legislature and Governor’s Office were considering some of the most severe budget cuts in our state’s history. While it might be easy to read the numbers as a shift in our economy, in truth this is a one-time bump that owes to a combination of improved energy production, federal stimulus and smart investing over recent years.

Senate leadership is focused on directing a significant portion (25 – 30%) of this wealth into short-, mid- and long-term investments that will benefit future generations. This type of prudent saving has helped our state weather the ups-and-downs, which have been many in recent years. We owe it to our children and their children to follow that example and set our state on a firm path of fiscal accountability.

As we consider spending, the Senate will prioritize our most urgent needs and opportunities to continue to grow and diversify our economy. As Governor Gordon stated in his address to the Legislature, Wyoming’s economy is more diverse than it has been in 50 years. That owes to smart policymaking that has fostered investment and created a business climate that is attracting new industry.

We will continue to build on that framework by streamlining efficiencies, removing obstacles in the way of small and family-owned businesses, and providing relief to our most vulnerable citizens. Inflation is a factor that is creating major challenges for hardworking Wyoming families. Across Wyoming, many residents are grappling with skyrocketing property taxes. This rapidly emerging crisis is falling heaviest on those who can least afford it: retirees, critical workers, low-income earners, and renters, whose rates are escalating as the bill gets passed along.

With the supplemental budget bill, the Legislature has fully funded the Property Tax Refund Program at $5 million to provide relief to our most vulnerable, who are also facing down financial hardships due to inflation. We will continue to fight for practical solutions to cap or rollback property tax increases and make our tax structure simpler and fairer.

This important work, closest to the people, is possible because Wyoming is a citizen legislature. Unlike most states, our members are not career politicians; they are individuals with diverse personal and professional backgrounds. That collective experience is an asset that will help inform policy and set our state on a course to continue to lead the nation and the world. I look forward to robust debate on the Senate floor, informed with your thoughts, cares, and priorities. Please email me at [email protected] if you have questions or concerns regarding legislation being discussed during this session.

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