The House and Senate Budget Bills are headed towards reconciliation. While there are various topics of contention between the two chambers education funding seems to be the sticking point to watch. The Senate has added an amendment to their bill that would require education funding cuts to total over 91.4 million for the 2017-18 school year. Proposed by Sens Scott and Coe, Amendment s2019 requires that there be minimum cuts to the block funding provided for education. These cuts are to be inclusive of those already proposed but require that additional cuts be made in order to reach the proposed minimum. By applying these cuts to the block funding the amendment aims to satisfy the public feedback demanding local control of spending reductions by affected school districts.
The House Education Bill has identified roughly 30 million dollars in cuts, much of which comes from cuts to educational support staff. The minimum cuts required by the Senate’s budget would include this amount but demand much deeper cuts. It also proposes a ½% increase to the state sales tax That increase is estimated to contribute just over 73 million dollars a year towards the anticipated 400 million dollar shortfall. There is likely to be intense negotiation between the chambers before this is resolved. This ½% tax was included in the initial education bill, was amended to a 2% increase that would have significantly cut the deficit and then amended back to a modified version of the ½% increase. While these bills do not face each other directly in the reconciliation process there is likely to be maneuvering on both as a means to resolve the conflicts within them.
On a lighter note, Wyoming Equality held its 4th Annual Legislative Reception on Monday in Cheyenne where the reigning Senate champions again took the trophy home. Better luck next time to the House!