ROCK SPRINGS — During the Rock Springs City Council meeting Tuesday evening, House District 48 representative Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs, gave a short update to the Council about the upcoming legislative session.
Stith said the Wyoming Legislature is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, January 12, for a one-day virtual meeting to fulfill the requirements of the Wyoming Constitution.
According to a press release from the Wyoming Legislative Service Office, the Legislature must convene on January 12 and address necessary business including electing legislative leadership; adopting rules for the 66th Legislature; and receiving a message from Governor Mark Gordon.
Prior to the session, legislators are being sworn into office through January 12. Stith said he would be traveling to Cheyenne later this week to take his oath of office.
As far as when the Legislature will convene, Stith said there isn’t a schedule available at this time and so he’s just waiting to find out more information.
Stith told the Council he was assigned to the House Appropriations Committee, which Stith believes no one from Sweetwater County has been on since possibly the early 1990s.
He said Governor Mark Gordon has asked state agencies to cut 10 percent across the board and then an additional five percent. Stith said this community will be impacted by that. He said the programs associated with the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) will be greatly impacted.
Stith would like to work to bring back some of those WDH programs slated for termination. One program he’d like to restore is the home services for the elderly. He said it serves about 2,000 people statewide and it doesn’t really cost that much. This program keep the elderly living at home instead of going into nursing homes. This program is less than $3 million.
Rock Springs Councilor Keaton West asked how the cuts will impact the direct distribution to the cities, towns and counties.
Stith said direct distribution to cities, towns and counties has been stuck at $105 million statewide for the past several years. Governor Gordon’s proposed 10 percent cuts. Stith said fortunately the Governor doesn’t have the power to do that by himself and Clark would like to see that mitigated.
If I had to guess, now I’m just one guy there, but if I had to guess I don’t think it would be cut by 10 percent. I think it will be cut by less than 10 percent when all the dust settles.~ House District 48 representative Clark Stith
He believes the oil and gas and coal revenue will be a little better than projected, which should help lessen the impact.
Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo asked if Stith had heard anything about bringing the sales tax on food back. Stith said he doesn’t think this will pass nor is he aware of any bills coming forth to do that. For the past 16 years or so the state has had a tax holiday on a food sales tax, Stith said.
Councilor Brent Bettolo asked if the Legislature is considering any avenues to generate revenue for the state. Stith said a lot of people campaigned on no new taxes and so a lot of those will not be in favor of any new taxes.
“I think we’re going to have to chip at this slowly,” Stith said.
He said there is one bill that proposes a .5 cent sales tax increase statewide, which is part of a larger education funding bill. Stith isn’t sure whether or not this bill will pass.
Kaumo said the city just received its sales tax revenue and it hasn’t been this low since 2007, however he didn’t give the exact amount.
“You can’t continue to cut and cut and cut until services are gone and programs are gone without considering some sort of revenue source,” Kaumo said.
After this discussion, Stith asked the Councilors to keep in contact with him and let him know what they think about different issues.
To view the virtual sessions, video livestream of the House and Senate proceedings will be available on the Legislature’s website at www.wyoleg.gov. Governor Gordon’s message will be live streamed separately on Wyoming PBS’s YouTube channel at 2 pm, the press release states.
According to the release, members of the public are encouraged to view the proceedings online. The public may contact members of the Legislature directly using the contact information available on the Legislature’s website at www.wyoleg.gov/Legislators.