OPINION: The Six-County Plan

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The following was written and submitted by Tom Gagnon

Following Wyoming’s state legislature, it is apparent that nothing new and creative, or bold and inspiring will emerge.  Nor will anything realistically within our control, or money-saving, emerge.  Our politicians and bureaucrats complain that Big Government, meaning the federal government, is the root of all our problems, but this is a cop-out.

We rely on the federal government while heaping scorn on it and showing no gratitude.  For example, the feds pay for and manage our BLM lands, national forests, parks, and wildlife-refuge lands, as well as the reclamation of superfund sites.  For every dollar that Wyoming pays to the U.S. Treasury, we receive in return $1.11, or one third of our revenue.

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The previous president made laws to ensure that mining and drilling companies paid their way, but these efforts are being overturned, and without spectacular benefits to Wyoming’s people, many of whom are being financially compelled to move out.  These people will likely move to states that support schools, provide expanded Medicaid, and have growing economies.  Frankly, this means blue states.

Meanwhile, our state and county politicians and bureaucrats do nothing to rectify this situation, save for trying to justify their too-large numbers.  One answer to our financial and organizational problems is to drastically reduce the number of politicians and bureaucrats within our state, at both the county and state level, because this is what is within our control.  Simply stated, the problem is not Big Government, the problem is Too Much Government.  Today’s fast transportation and computers make lots of yesteryear’s governance obsolete and redundant.

A partial solution would be to redraw most of our county lines.  By following watershed divides where possible, and considering economic integration, we would only need six counties, not twenty-three.  Five of these counties, Big Horn Basin, Powder River, Central, Southeastern, and Green River would have lots of energy creation potential, while the remaining one, Snake River, would have other sources of wealth.  We would not have any resource-poor (a.k.a., “agricultural”) counties.

Six counties, six school districts, six sheriffs.  Five county commissioners, who would also be legislators, from each county.  We could have a unicameral legislature of just thirty commissioner/legislators.

That three-hundred-million-dollar project to fix the old capital building, guess what, it’s only a down payment.  To finish will cost over a billion dollars.  Any more money spent on that pile of rubble is unconscionable.  We don’t need a physical capital; a virtual one will do.  The counties can take turns hosting -or putting up with- our legislators.

Insofar as we need a state capital at all, for facilities and courts, and a hut for the governor, Casper is the only sensible place, for its urban services and central location.  This immodest, “out-of-the-box” plan may seem completely unrealistic, unexpected, and a touch radical, but it is within our control, and it is hardly worse than the expensive and redundant government that we have now.  This six-county plan is good for our future, because, we have Too Much Government.