CHEYENNE — Lawmakers will decide whether to make money now flowing to untouchable savings available for use when the Wyoming Legislature works through the budget next week.
Both chambers of the legislature will begin work on the supplemental budget Monday.
The proposed budget is available here
. House Bill 1 and Senate File 1 are mirrors of Joint Appropriations Committee's proposed budget.
The Joint Appropriations Committee rejects Gov. Matt Mead's proposal to redirect about $130 million of energy tax revenue into an account that is accessible rather than into the inaccessible Permanent Mineral Trust Fund.
"We need to build our Permanent Mineral Trust Fund," said Sen. Eli Bebout. The Republican from Riverton is the chairman of Senate Appropriations Committee. "That is a major policy decision that we will make next week."
Bebout wants to maintain a "statutory flow" of 1 percent from mineral severance taxes that goes into the untouchable Permanent Mineral Trust Fund. Another flow of 1.5 percent to the fund that is untouchable without a change to the state constitution.
Bebout told other senators Friday that revenues from the state's Permanent Mineral Trust Fund kept the state afloat in the 1990s when other revenue streams died.
The interest income from the PMTF has dropped as a percentage of general fund revenues, Bebout said, and the state needs to rebuild it.
"That's our backup," he said.
Mead had suggested with the unpredictability of energy prices and revenue in the future that access to the cash could be a safety net.
Several other suggestions by the governor, such as diverting some coal-lease bonus money to purposes other than school construction have also been rejected by the appropriations committee.
The budget does retain a significant portion of the governor's suggested reductions to agency budgets.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Harshman it's "one of the smallest supplemental budgets ever, practically."
Wyoming lawmakers create budgets for two years and the supplemental budget during general sessions is to make adjustments at midpoint.
Because of declining prices for fossil fuels, Wyoming tax revenues have been flat.
While agencies saw an average of about 6.5 percent in budget cuts in both the governor's and the JAC's proposals, the appropriations committee recommends one-time appropriations of $55 million for the University of Wyoming College of Engineering construction account.
It also recommended one-time spending of $31.2 million for fire suppression and $20 million in direct distribution to cities, towns and counties.
The legislature adopted the current $3.2 billion general fund budget during the budget session last March. That budget took effect in July 2012 and runs through June 30, 2014.
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