Two young cowboys decided to start a business selling hay. They bought hay from local farmers for $100 per ton, loaded it on their truck, then hauled it to buyers and sold it for $100 per ton. After selling a few loads of hay, Clem said to Zeke, “These figures aren’t adding up. We buy three tons of hay for $300, load it and haul it, then sell it for $300. We have gas expense and time involved. We aren’t making money.” Zeke looked at the figures and then said, “Yeah. We’ve got to get a bigger truck.”
Sometimes our elected officials have about the same grasp of economics as did these two dumb cowboys. We simply can’t continue to spend more than we take in. Wyoming has a projected $400 million shortfall in revenue because of a decrease in mineral royalties. Yet the proposed Wyoming budget is an increase of millions over last year.
An example of out-of-control spending is the State Capitol renovation project. Initially it was to be $50 million dollars. Now it has grown to a $300 million dollar boondoggle.
Local government has the same spending problem. The Grove public housing project seemed like a good idea to help subsidize local government employees such as law enforcement and school teachers. Budgeted costs escalated until the project is out of control. Bicycle pathways seem like a good idea but they are very expensive, both for construction and maintenance. The Bus Barn cost millions and yet they serve relatively few. Yes, we want our valley to be beautiful, safe, and have a good infrastructure, but at what price to the taxpayer? Before construction can begin on a nice home in Teton County the building permits can cost up to $300,000. That is ridiculous.
The University of Wyoming currently spends five million dollars per year recruiting athletes from out of state for our sports programs. They claim they must spend that much in order to be competitive with other Division I schools. And, of course, they give them scholarships to entice them. I, for one, would be happier if they forego spending my tax dollars to import athletes. I just checked and only 10 of our 102 football players are from Wyoming. Only two of our fifteen basketball players are from in state. We fans would support Wyoming football and basketball much more if they were locals. I don’t get as excited cheering for players from Florida or California as I would cheering players from Jackson or Casper. Even if we didn’t win as many games we would have more pride in our team and more attendance at games and more Wyoming viewers on TV. And we would save five million tax dollars. As I’m writing this I see breaking news that Theo Dawson, of Jackson High School, has signed a Letter of Intent to play at UW. How many of us who are now luke-warm followers of UW football will follow them more closely when Theo is on the team? Theo rushed for 489 yards in one high school game, which is almost unbelievable.
Drastic changes in the method of government budgeting must be implemented. Rep. Eric Barlow has a great idea for reducing state spending. Rather than base a budget on “projected” revenue, change it to a budget based on “what’s in the bank now” and that’s all we can spend. Let revenues flow into the bank account and whatever accumulates is what’s available for spending in the following biennium. Barlow has a written plan for implementing that goal.
I propose a cost-saving/sharing plan to reduce spending by city, county, and state employees. Each government agency is budgeted based on their actual needs. A percentage of each dollar they come in under budget will be shared by all employees of that agency equally. Say there are 2,000 administrators, teachers, staff and maintenance people working for the University of Wyoming. Suppose they save 5 million dollars from the budgeted amount. Twenty percent of savings is theirs to pocket as a bonus. So $1,000,000 (20%) available in bonus is divided by 2,000 employees. Each of them pockets a $500 bonus for doing their part to cut spending. That gives them incentive to cut more next year. A $500 bonus isn’t much for the UW president or football coach as a percentage of their paycheck. But $500 for a janitor or groundskeeper or assistant teacher is a nice bonus and gives them an incentive to turn off lights, do without that new furniture, make do with the old lawn mower, and don’t travel to recruit that football star from Alabama but, instead, offer the scholarship to a kid from Jackson High School.
Our Wyoming State Legislature began its bi-annual Budget Session on February 9, 2016. Legislators, please cut spending and live within our means. Treat that money as if it were your own. Please adopt Rep. Barlow’s great idea for a balanced budget. Consider my cost-saving/sharing plan to cut expenses.
I urge all of my readers to contact your legislator and express your desire for a budget in the black.
Remember, “Life is always better when viewed from between the ears of a horse.”