Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Wyoming School Funding Cuts on Their Way to Governor's Office; Will Litigation Follow?

Yesterday, I remarked on how the Kansas Supreme Court has stood firm in insisting that the state properly fund education, offering a model for other state courts.  An interesting possibility may arise soon in Wyoming.  Wyoming has excellent precedent, but has largely flown under the radar in for the past decade.  Increased funding struggles in recent years suggest that litigants may once again take to the courts.  The Wyoming legislature was patting itself on the back for finding a supposed solution last week, but far more appears necessary.  The Miami-Herald reports:

A compromise reached in the final hours of the legislative session Friday cleared the way for lawmakers to approve an education finance bill containing spending cuts but no taxes.

Fixing an education funding shortfall on track to top $380 million a year was one of Gov. Matt Mead's top hopes for the eight-week session. The bill, which would launch a potentially years-long process of addressing the shortfall, now heads to his desk.

The bill carries $34.5 million in education cuts. While not nearly enough to erase the shortfall before it sets in next year, the cuts accompany a plan to study and revamp education funding amid weak state revenue from coal, oil and natural gas extraction.

"It's not a solution. But I think it's another step," House Speaker Steve Harshman, R-Casper, said in urging House approval of the bill. "There's going to be thousands of more steps."

The House voted 45-13 and the Senate 25-4 to approve the bill.

"We really, honestly, I think got our own way," Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, told fellow senators.

With Mead's approval, a special legislative committee and Mead appointees would get to work on the problem year-round.

The bill remained in limbo through most of the session's last day.

The House voted 51-9 Friday morning not to agree to Senate changes to the measure. Those changes included stripping a half-cent state sales tax increase and reallocation of $84 million in mineral tax revenue toward K-12 education.


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