The Wyoming Legislature is gearing up for its budget session. I have been watching what bills are being considered and if we can read the tea leaves on legislative intent.
It should be evident to all Wyomingites that things are starting to get desperate. With desperation, we either wind up proposing bold common-sense solutions or grasping at straws. We know how much the Right thinks that the Left hates straws, so let the grasping begin.
Wyoming’s two-faced legislature largely backs the GOP talking points of free market capitalism but, based on the bills they are proposing, they push all our chips in on right-wing socialism. The Legislature is expected to proceed with a bill on tolling I-80 because we cannot afford the other roads that connect our state. Wyoming’s small cities cannot afford to operate on their current revenue, so there is a straw to siphon funds from large cities to give to smaller towns, all the while carping about the rising cost of providing high-quality public education.
There is more socialism for the coal industry, as Governor Gordon wants a $25 million slush fund to aid its survival. Governor Gordon’s request seems to mirror President Trump’s strategy as he obtained a $28 billion slush fund to buy off farmers and ranchers in order to cover up his disastrous trade wars.
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Don’t worry Wyoming farmers and ranchers; right-wing socialism will continue to fill your trough as it has since the Homestead Act. The Emergency Water Projects Bill will ensure that Goshen County irrigation district mismanagement of a taxpayer-owned irrigation tunnel that collapsed be rewarded instead of prevented. Emergency loans to cover ineptitude instead of legislative oversight were standard practice in the Soviet Union, so true to form, the Wyoming GOP uses taxpayer dough to go on with the Potemkin show. Way to go WYO!
I am certain the proponents of the Emergency Water Bill will fight the Medicaid expansion bill. They are more worried about a collapsed agricultural artery than the arterial health for all residents. They view Medicaid expansion as the wrong kind of socialism, because it benefits everyone instead of the few.
Hypocrisy continues, as angry Republicans seem to think local control is just fine for managing public schools but when local control gets negative reviews from right-wing media outlets, then the Nanny State is gleeful to propose legislation to trigger their base. When local municipalities propose zoning for buildings or unique ways to address the lack of affordable housing, House Bill 22 seemingly mocks progressive ideas by hypocritically eroding local control. Let’s see if the Wyoming legislature proposes the same for addressing the shortfall in convoluted public school funding.
Local control is discouraged when it comes to benefiting the populace but when it comes to robbing our public lands; again they push all-in. The 2018 Farm Bill, a taxpayer-funded bonanza for farmers and ranchers, permanently authorizes the use of the Good Neighbor Act for collaborative work on BLM and National Forest Lands (USFS). The Wyoming Legislature has seized on this provision in its HB0056 proposal. While the GNA has been sold as a way to address issues that cross federal, state and private lands, it is really Wyoming’s stalking-horse provision to eventually take over federal lands. Combined with the weakening of the National Environmental Policy Act, the GNAs being implemented by the County Commissioners that generate funds will be returned to the state instead of to the BLM or USFS. This process ensures the decline of land management agencies to the point where there is no legal barrier to take these public lands and leaves the public unaware that their lands are being stolen. Don’t worry says the GOP, they will manage it just like the U.S. taxpayer-owned Goshen Irrigation canal; they will abuse it until it collapses.
On the bright side, the Wyoming Legislature realizes additional revenue is needed. They are sticking to the tried and true: seeking revenue from the simple pleasures of drinking, sleeping, driving and smoking. All these pleasures are considered revenue generators and bills are being prepared to tax you, because Wyoming lags behind other states in the taxation rate of these products. I don’t know about you, but prices for these items are not lower in Wyoming, so expect more cross-border shopping when the GOP raises these rates.
Despite this, Wyoming offers unbelievable value for the average citizen. I feel extremely blessed to live in a state that has more money than common sense. However, those that need it the least are drinking from a fire hose, while those that need the most help cannot even get a straw.
Greg Hunter is a former candidate for the U.S. House