CHEYENNE — There will be no special legislative session this summer for the Wyoming Legislature to decide how to spend federal coronavirus funds, Gov. Mark Gordon announced last week on Friday.
Instead Gordon and legislative leaders announced they will work with a special “strike team” formed by Gordon to develop a plan on how to best spend the fund. Gordon will then present that plan to the Legislature later this month. They indicated this would result in the relief spending decisions being made through the normal budget process rather than in a lawmaking blitz.
At the end of the session in April, it was widely understood that there would be a special session this July, in large part to decide on how to distribute the latest round of federal relief money. No special session means a resolution to the state’s $300 million education funding shortfall won’t come soon. The House and Senate couldn’t agree on a bill to bridge that gap during the April session. It’s unlikely lawmakers would have found a direct solution in July in a special session, but they had planned to rule on $120 million of the state’s more than $1 billion in relief money set to go to schools. That money can still be spent, but without legislative approval, the governor will be more limited in how. Lawmakers were also prioritizing business relief programs, health care education and potential infrastructure projects.
If no special session is called this year, lawmakers will have to wait until 2022 to convene in a budget session.
The state has received $534 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to date, but another $534 million is anticipated to come sometime next year. The state also has until Dec. 31, 2024, to obligate the ARPA money and until Dec. 31, 2026, to spend it.
Gordon said he wants to develop a thoughtful, purposeful, transparent and strategic approach to handling ARPA funds.
Gordon has assembled a team to better identify what the state needs to do to survive and what can be done to better drive to a future where all of Wyoming can thrive.