Anne Alexander says she can offer fresh ideas on government if she is elected to the Wyoming Senate District 10 seat held by incumbent Phil Nicholas.
Nicholas says he offers knowledge and experience from 18 years in the Legislature and the benefits of being in the powerful Wyoming Senate leadership.
The two face off in the Aug. 21 Republican primary election. No Democrats have filed for the seat.
Senate District 10 includes the city of Laramie and eastern Albany County.
Alexander, 42, is an economist and director of International Programs at the University of Wyoming. This is her first entry into partisan politics. Her only experience had been winning a seat on the nonpartisan Albany County Hospital Board.
Nicholas, 57, is a Laramie attorney who has served in the state House and Senate and currently is Senate
Vice President and co-chairman of the Joint Appropriations Committee.
If he is re-elected, Nicholas is in line to become the Senate majority leader.
Alexander said earlier she considered running for the seat because there are so few women in the Legislature. The Senate currently has only one, Republican Leslie Nutting of Cheyenne.
Alexander cited her background in economics and energy economics as proof she is well aware of the budget issues facing the state in the next few years.
“I think we’re about to face some pretty rough times,” Alexander said.
Yet when revenues drop, the state seems to go back to the same solutions, she said, noting she may have new answers to old problems.
Alexander said the issue is analogous to driving between Laramie and Rawlins. After a few trips along the stretch of Interstate 80, the journey becomes automatic.
Alexander said that among other things, she wants to be sure the state can continue to add value to its natural
Nicholas doesn’t expect the state to see the same level of revenue experienced in the first 10 years of the 21st century.
For that reason, he believes the state needs legislators who were here in the last downturn of the economy and can guide the full Legislature.
“A lot of that depends on a strong understanding of our tax system and where the money comes from,” Nicholas said.
The University of Wyoming, he said, needs strong advocacy and leadership because there are a lot of people in the state who believe the institution receives more money than it needs.
He pointed out his role in many of the benefits to the university, including helping establish the business-ready block grant for the business incubator on campus. He also cited his work on the hardship funding formula that helps Albany County, the city of Laramie and such small communities as Rock River.
Nicholas doesn’t want to see the state lose ground again on maintaining its buildings and roads and face the huge backlog it did in the 1990s. The state’s rainy-day fund, he said, has been built by sizable capital gains on state investments. He would support a “modest raid” on the rainy-day fund as long as the balance stays at $3 billion.
Alexander believes maintaining the state’s infrastructure is important but said the need must be balanced against all the other government needs for money, including the university and education.
She said that as a university employee she cannot advocate for a pay raise for Wyoming public employees but would like to see it happen.
As an alternate to costly pay raises, she suggested one-time bonuses to reward employees and stop the drain of faculty members from
Nicholas said he aggravated some of his constituents last winter when he opposed pay raises.
The move, he said, was necessary to allow the Legislature time to get a handle on costs. A 1 percent pay raise for university, community college, school district and state government employees costs the state about $20 million a year, he said.
Now the lawmakers need to figure out where to find the money to meet their obligation to these public employees, Nicholas said.