Funding for Wyoming’s schools might have to wait until next year.
According to Cowboy State Daily, Governor Mark Gordon has announced there will be no special session for the state legislature on how to spend federal coronavirus funds.
The Governor and several legislative leaders instead will work on a special strike team formed by Gordon, to put a plan together on how to best spend the fund and present that plan to the Legislative’s Joint Appropriations Committee meeting in Cheyenne on June 15th.
Wyoming has received $534 million in funds courtesy of the American Rescue Plan Act, and more could come in 2022.
Gordon says legislative leaders are trying to identify what needs to be done for Wyoming to survive and to build a future where the state can thrive.
“These are dollars borrowed by Congress from many generations yet to come, and if we are going to use them, in my mind, those future generations that will be paying for them must also benefit from them,” Gordon said. “ARPA funds, if we are to use them, must be for the greater benefit of Wyoming citizens, not for a few shiny distractions.”
To make sure that the criteria are met, Gordon and the Legislature’s presiding officers said a collaboration among legislators and the public will be important going forward.
State House Speaker Eric Barlow (R-Gillette) said there is time to determine legislative spending priorities and they will take public testimony.
Senate President Dan Dockstader (R-Afton) says a plan that takes months of deliberation will be better, than one put together from a few days of hearings and a week long special session.
Gordon, Barlow and Dockstader add the federal money will not be used to reduce state spending on schools and local governments and that Wyoming’s share of those costs in the next biennium (2022-24) might be reduced due to the ARPA funds.
During the 2021 general legislative session, Wyoming lawmakers were unable to agree on what financial cuts would be made to deal with the state’s $300 million education funding shortfall.
There was speculation that a special session would take place in July, to figure out how to use ARPA funds towards the shortfall.
The 2022 budget session is tentatively scheduled to begin on February 14th.