Wyoming’s 66th Legislature convenes for budget session
Cheyenne – Wyoming’s Legislature will gather for the 2022 Budget Session at 10 a.m. on Feb. 14. This 20-day session will focus on the state’s budget and related bills.
Barry Crago, a rancher, attorney and member of the Wyoming House of Representatives (R-HD40), shared at the 11th Annual Women’s Agriculture Summit, hosted by the Johnson County CattleWomen in January, the events and outcomes of legislative discussions which occur in Cheyenne during this session are important to pay attention to.
“People are really focused on our national politics, and sometimes we forget what is happening in our own backyard,” Crago said. “What we are doing in Cheyenne is important too, and on a day-to-day basis, may have more implications to us as agricultural producers than what is happening in Washington, D.C.”
Crago noted the Budget Session brings many important issues to the table, including two major focuses – the state budget and the issue of redistricting.
With respect to the budget, Crago said the next four to five years have a positive outlook, especially the next biennium.
“The governor has set a very conservative budget of around $2.9 billion, which is about where we were last year before budget cuts were made in the original session,” Crago said. “The actual revenue over the next few years is projecting to be $3.5 billion.”
He shared this is especially positive if the state can hold revenue as surplus.
Crago believes the state should create longer-term budgets with more “business-like” goals in mind. In addition, he notes agriculturists should pay close attention to decisions made regarding the budget.
“In the past, ag is generally left alone when we start talking about taxes and how to fund services in Wyoming because oil, gas, coal and uranium pay 80 percent of taxes – sales tax and property tax contributes – but extraction pays for most services,” Crago explained. “I think there is a possibility for the extraction industry to start saying other industries, including agriculture, need to start pulling more weight.”
In the 2021 Budget Session, a bill regarding ag land taxes was brought forward to eliminate some levels of ag tax exemptions, Crago said, and there is a similar bill in this year’s session.
While there are lots of factors and outside opinion, Crago reminds producers to pay attention to the Budget Session and encourages everyone to reach out to their legislators with questions and to provide input.
“Another big issue for this session is redistricting, which also has a big impact on agriculture,” Crago said, noting the realignment of districts with the state is another topic to pay close attention to for producers. “This is important because sometimes smaller counties, which don’t have enough population, often are drawn into another district with a city.”
“What this does is removes a lot of the rural vote, and if a rural district is grouped with a municipal district, the urban people will likely win the vote,” he added.
Many new residents who moved to Wyoming from other states in the last couple of years have added an interesting component to the topic of redistricting. Crago noted in the current legislature, 12 of 60 Representatives in the House are involved in the farming and ranching industry, and while others may have connections to agriculture, it’s not their main focus.
“We, as a group of agriculturists, need to find good people to run for office who are involved in ag,” Crago said. “It’s not an easy job – Cheyenne is a very different environment today, and it’s tougher to have discussions on tough issues.”
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.