Legislators predict local governments will get funding at governor's level

Dec 28, 2017 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

In his budget request to the Wyoming Legislature, Gov. Matt Mead has requested that $105 million be distributed to the state's local governments.

That annual state funding has become one that Fremont County, and its municipalities, have come to rely on in recent years.

The $105 million request is the same sum that was distributed last biennium, when the formula used to allocate the money was particularly favorable to Fremont County.

This month, local legislators told the mayors in the county they expect Mead's request to be approved, likely with the same formula as last year.

"There's a lot of support for that," Wyoming Senate President Eli Bebout said. "From my perspective, I'm going to support all we can for cities, towns and counties."

The Republican from Riverton also said the political support for the funding is especially high since local governments aren't spending "like drunken sailers."

Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, agreed the Legislature seems "locked in" to providing the full appropriation, while adding he's becoming uncomfortable with local governments' increasing reliance of mineral-based state funding.

Previous model

When $105 million was approved last biennium, Fremont County's governments were expected to receive $3.3 million each year.

The final distribution was less favorable to Fremont County than the original funding plan that was backed by local legislators and created by State Rep. Michael Madden, R-Buffalo.

That model considered both the community's population and sales and use tax revenue, among other components, and, before it was changed the day before the 2016 legislative session ended, was particularly favorable to "hardship" communities including Shoshoni, Pavillion and Hudson.

Case said it's unlikely the original "Madden model" will be revived this year.

"Mike doesn't have the fire in the belly to push for it," he said.

Pavillion, Hudson

At a recent Fremont County Association of Governments meeting, Hudson mayor Mike Anderson said the risk of fluctuating revenues makes it impossible for his town to have long-term planning on infrastructure.

"We need stability," he said.

Pavillion mayor Tex Frazier said his funds are so low that he can't even afford matching dollars for grants to purchase new vehicles.

"It's really hard for the smaller communities to plan anything when everything changes from year to year," FCAG director Gary Michaud said.

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