By Bradley Harrington
“I favor the policy of economy, not because I wish to save money, but because I wish to save people. The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear the cost of government… Every dollar that we carelessly waste means that their life will be so much the more meager.” — Calvin Coolidge, “Inaugural Address,” 1925–
Well, the latest figures from Wyoming’s CREG report are in, and — predictably, given our state’s huge reliance on minerals and fossil fuel dollars — it doesn’t look good:
“Even with major budget cuts earlier this year, Wyoming is still looking at a large deficit for the 2017-18 biennium, according to a report released Monday by the state’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Group… Current projections show the state will have a $156 million deficit for the 2017-18 budget, which began July 1.” (“Mead suggests rainy-day fund to plug Wyoming budget holes,” WTE, Oct. 25.)
If you think this means that it’s time for Gov. Mead to cut state spending, however, you’ve got another think coming:
“Gov. Matt Mead said Monday morning he does not plan on calling for additional budget cuts before the Legislature convenes in January … Mead also said he and his staff may propose dipping into the state’s rainy-day fund, which currently contains about $1.6 billion … ‘In my mind, it is raining in Wyoming, and this is a time to smooth out this downturn to use some additional rainy-day funds,’ he said.”
The only problem with that scenario, Mr. Mead, is that it’s going to be “raining” for nearly the next decade at a minimum: “In fact, the CREG report is projecting severance tax collections will remain below levels seen in fiscal year 2015 at least through the early 2020s.”
And — speaking of facts — the issue is far worse than these given figures indicate. As local economist Sven Larson points out, the -$156 million figure is actually only the difference between CREG’s “Total General Fund” forecast for the same biennium ($2.2178 billion, Jan. 2016, vs. $2.0615 billion, Oct. 2016).
This, as Mr. Larson puts it, “tells us nothing about the state’s actual revenue trend” — which can only be determined by comparing the CREG’s “Total General Fund” forecast for Oct. 2016 ($2.0615 billion) to CREG’s Oct. 2015 forecast for the same value (which stood at $2.5278 billion):
“That is not a decline in revenue of $156 million,” Mr. Larson bluntly states. “That is almost half a billion dollars. $466.3 million, to be exact.” (“Biennium revenue down $466 million,” www.thewyomingprosperityproject.com, Oct. 25.)
Mr. Larson continues: “Suppose this is spread evenly across the biennium. This means that the decline in revenue for this current fiscal year is just over $233 million, 149 percent of the number that the media and Gov. Mead are throwing around.”
So, Mr. Mead, do you still think you can raid the “rainy day” fund to prepare ourselves for the coming hurricane? Do you even read the CREG reports?
Apparently not, for you’ve already stated clearly that you have no intention of suggesting further budget cuts, as this would “likely result in employee layoffs and service reductions, Mead said.”
So: It’s OK for us to have lost about 11,000 private-sector jobs in the last 18 months, but we sure can’t allow that to translate into anybody in government losing their jobs, now can we?
Except that, since government only has what it takes from taxpayers first, this means that — as President Coolidge so aptly put it — “Every dollar that we carelessly waste means that their life will be so much more the meager.”
Quite clearly, therefore, Mr. Mead, you don’t give a rip about the taxpayer. No, your only interest lies in making sure that government payrolls get met, no matter what it costs the rest of us to make that happen.
In the real world, of course, there’s plenty of garbage that could be whacked out of our state budget without any impact whatsoever on essential government services. In looking over the 2017-2018 budget, here’s just a few for starters:
■ Wyoming Business Council — $76.8 million (economic fascism)
■ Enhanced Oil Recovery Commission — $6.4 million (more economic fascism)
■ Wyoming Tourism Board — $32.5 million (more economic fascism)
■ Wyoming DEQ — $157.4 million (try enforcing property rights instead)
■ Wyoming Family Services — $283 million (not the government’s job)
Well, that adds up to $556.1 million right there — without touching ONE “essential” service. And that’s after a 20-minute perusal. Just imagine what I could come up with over the space of a few hours!
I’d suggest, Mr. Mead, that you hire one more employee — me, as your budget analyst. And it won’t cost the taxpayers a dime, as I’ll do the job for free (as a TRUE “public service”). Contact info below…
Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: This column was originally published in the “Wyoming Tribune Eagle” on October 28, 2016. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.