Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Mark Dykes
Reporter Photographer 

Agar works toward meaningful discussion


Senate District 20 Representative Wyatt Agar reported Tuesday that last week was certainly a difficult one.

Agar stated he asked Senator Burns, the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, when the last time was that every department had to be gone into and sustain cuts in a supplemental budget session. Burns’ response was “never, to his knowledge.” “The reality is,” Agar stated, “our state is staring down the road at a 500 million dollar structural deficit and is burning through the LSRA — rainy day fund — at a expedient rate. Some changes have to be made.

“Once again we debated and saw cuts to every department, the Health Department — which included cuts to mental health and services to seniors — the University and Community Colleges, the Department of Agriculture — which has seen a 70 percent cut to services such as predator control — and the Pipeline Authority, which plays a massive role in assuring that we get a fair market value for our oil and natural gas. So it is only right that the school system come to the table and have a discussion as well.”

Unfortunately, Agar further noted, there are several school districts on the east side of the state and members of the house that will not talk about any cuts to school funding with out also adding tax increases. That thought pattern prompted the introduction of a couple of amendments to SF1, regarding general government appropriations.

The first was introduced by Senator Scott, and calls for a reduction in school financing of 91 million dollars. “The important nuance of this amendment,” Agar noted “is that it only becomes effective if the two chambers can not come to an agreement on a school finance bill.” The Senate sent SF 165, regarding school finance and education funding reductions, to the house last week, and they have a different version being read in on our floor this week. The purpose of the amendment is to force a meaningful discussion.

The second amendment was brought by Agar, and simply states "funds appropriated for the education of students can not be used to sue the legislative body."

Agar stated the footnote was brought in response to the continual threat of a lawsuit if we make cuts to education funding. “The footnote expires with the budget and once again is designed the force a meaningful discussion. I believe it is imperative that we handle our financial problems as a state now.”


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