Wyoming lawmakers ended a monthlong legislative session without agreement on resolving a $300 million education funding shortfall.
House and Senate members remained at odds late Wednesday on where cuts should occur, how to spend federal funds and whether to impose a 0.5% sales tax if state reserves fall below a certain level, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.
The legislative session, extended two days because of a blizzard that shut down the Capitol in March, ended with one of the session’s major items still on the table.
The K-12 shortfall has been exacerbated by a coronavirus-related downturn in fossil-fuel markets that is straining Wyoming’s economy and state revenue.
Lawmakers last week agreed to a supplemental budget with $430 million in cuts, an unusually big revision for a general session. Legislators write the state’s two-year budget in even-numbered years and focus mainly on non-budget matters in odd-numbered years.
Last year, state agency cuts imposed by Gov. Mark Gordon, a Republican, slashed 10% from the $3.3 billion, two-year budget he signed just months earlier. The cuts in this year’s supplemental budget bring the overall budget well below $3 billion.
Now, with no agreement on the separate but equally dire education deficit, Wyoming will keep burning through state savings to keep its school districts funded.
A proposal to cut education spending by $80 million over three years while imposing a conditional sales tax if needed made it through the House but the Senate balked, stripping the tax and changing how districts could spend funds on teacher salaries.
The changes moved the legislation to a conference committee of senators and representatives to try to work out a compromise. After meeting for several hours Wednesday, senators on the committee declined to keep negotiating when it became apparent no agreement could be made, said Sen. Charles Scott, a Republican from Casper.
A judge in Montana known for approving a search warrant for the Unabomber’s cabin and presiding over his first few court appearances in 1996 has retired.
Senior U.S. District Court Judge Charles C. Lovell, 91, has announced he is leaving his bench after 36 years of service in the District of Montana, the Independent Record reported Wednesday.
Lovell has assumed inactive senior status, meaning he will keep his title but relinquish his pending caseload and no longer maintain a chambers in the Helena Division.
“Judge Lovell is an institution in the District of Montana, and his absence will be felt throughout the federal court family,” the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana said in a statement. “The judges and staff of the District of Montana deeply appreciate Judge Lovell’s contribution to the administration of justice in Montana.”
Lovell stepped down as an active judge at age 70 in June 2000, citing health reasons. But he continued to handle half of his usual caseload as a senior judge.
Lovell, who was not available for an interview, is known for approving the search warrant for Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski’s cabin near Lincoln. Lovell also was the first federal judge to overturn a law mandating background checks on handgun buyers.