A $2.8 billion 2023-24 biennium budget is headed to Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk after approval Monday in the Wyoming House and Senate.
In the House, Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, said that this budget session was the “easiest and least controversial” he’d seen in his eight-year tenure on the Joint Appropriations Committee.
“I would commend our folks down the hall,” Nicholas said, referring to state senators. “Whenever we had an issue, typically our process was to come to a compromise and work through it, as opposed to fight.”
Nicholas said that during the joint conference committee meetings to reconcile the two chambers’ budget bills, “essentially, we just took the House side and the Senate side and cut it in half.”
In the big picture, that means an additional $84 million combined will go to the education side of the balance sheet, Nicholas said.
“[That] will go a long ways in helping resolve the one component of our budget which is not balanced and is operating in a deficit,” Nicholas said.
In the Senate, Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, gave legislators a high-level overview of the final budget recommendation.
He said that, as adopted, the current budget was $400 million less than the previous biennium budget.
In the second week of the session, the House voted to spend $24 million more than the Senate side. Ultimately the conference committee report came out with a general fund number of $2.786 billion.
Hicks said that at the beginning of the session, lawmakers started with a $1.56 billion Legislative Stabilization and Reserve Account, or LSRA.
“By the time we get out of here right now, we are going to be sitting at about $103 million less in the LSRA under the current budget and the bills we currently have passed,” Hicks said, adding that the Legislature will have a savings account of $1.457 billion after the 2023-24 budget.
“It is a reduction under the current budget,” Hicks said.
The strategic plan investment account, Hicks said, will also have nothing left in it after the budget bill passes.
There is a $127 million structural deficit remaining in the K-12 School Foundation Account, Hicks said, and that will be met with an allocation from the LSRA.
“[It’s] one of the reasons we continue to see a drawdown of the LSRA. ... We still have that deficit projected to be $127 million,” he said.
The state will spend $245 million on school capital construction, he added, but there wasn’t enough funding in the state’s school capital construction account for that allocation. The deficit will be met with $14.7 million from the LSRA, $4 million from the school foundation reserve account and another $46 million out of the school capital construction savings account.