Green River Star -

Our View: State should invest locally

 


With the upcoming legislative session in Cheyenne, a lot of eyes will be looking upon the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account, the state’s rainy day fund, as a solution to a lot of problems.

However, while the legislature might be tempted to pull money from that account for use in Cheyenne or the University of Wyoming, we believe some of that money would be better spent as an investment into local governments.

Those of us living in Sweetwater County are very familiar with the term “rainy day.” Our elected leaders have used it for years to describe what’s going on in the county. During the latter days of the oil and gas boom, it was used to describe the impacts the economy had on our communities. The term is still being tossed around, only now describing how the downturn has affected us.

With more than a billion dollars in the account, we believe some of it should make its way back to not only Sweetwater County, but every county across the Cowboy State. We also don’t believe the amount should be a small handout, but a large investment to improve local infrastructure. We think the state should invest between $200 million and $300 million during the next biennium to the 23 counties, with more funding going to places impacted the most by the economic downturn. More money should be spent in places like Campbell County, Natrona County and Sweetwater County as they’ve all had the highest impacts during the boom, as well as after it ended.

The procedure to divide the funds would be a simple one as well, with a system similar to the State Lands and Investments Board’s Consensus Block Grants. Those grants required the county and officials representing 70 percent of the county’s population to discuss and decide how best the funding would be used. Here, it resulted in agreements between the commissioners and members of the Rock Springs and Green River City Councils on how best to divide the funding, between those three local governments and the county’s outlying communities.

With that kind of investment, we believe the local economy would benefit as a result of sales taxes paid by workers living in the county, as well as keep workers and their families from leaving the county.

With so many people looking at the LSRA as a solution to their problem, it will be hard to decide who should receive how much. One of the best decisions the legislature could make would be an investment into the state’s local governments, because that is where government impacts the state’s residents the most.

 

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