The 2016 legislature started its budget session yesterday, and all eyes were focused on how legislators will deal with one of the most severe budget shortfalls in nearly 30 years.

The Consensus Revenue Estimating Group (CREG) forecast of revenues for the 2017-2018 biennium is substantially lower than their October 2015 forecast, and commodity prices are currently even lower than the January CREG assumptions. Here is a link to the CREG webpage: http://eadiv.state.wy.us/creg/creg.html.

Significant budget cuts have been proposed, and it is likely that there will be more. We expect lots of ideas for using Legislative Reserve Accounts, as well as attempts to raise revenues from current sources as well. There is some talk of forming a committee to review the state's tax policy – a "Tax Reform 2020" group or something like that. We will keep a close watch on those discussions and try to make sure business and industry are at the table. This could be good because the last time we did this – the "Tax Reform 2000" committee – their recommendations were set on the shelf because gas prices went up, and all our problems were solved!! Let's keep our fingers crossed that happens again!!

As you know, non-budget bills require a 2/3 vote to be introduced. Here are a few bills we are watching as of now, several of which will not make introduction:

  • HB 5 – Prohibited Question on Job Applications
  • HB 23 – Coal Severance Tax Credit
  • SF 13 – Severance Tax Distributions
  • SF 17 – Notice of Mineral property Transfer
  • SF 21 – Mineral Tax Archaic Provisions
  • SF 28 – Carbon Capture, Storage and Sequestration Permit
  • SF 61 – Occupational Health & Safety Act Civil Penalties

We'll keep you posted on additional forthcoming bills and relevant activities, and here is the link to the Legislative Service Office bill tracking webpage: http://legisweb.state.wy.us/2016/billreference/BillReference.aspx?type=ALL

A brief note on our Congressional race for the "At Large" Wyoming congressional seat: nine Republican candidates have filed to date. We have generated some national attention with the inclusion of Liz Cheney in the field. We also have Rep. Tim Stubson from Casper and Sen. Leland Christensen from western Wyoming, both respected state legislators in the race. We expect a lively and likely expensive primary. No Democratic candidates have stepped forward yet.