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WTE file photo

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Legislature will consider allowing state agencies to pay for relocation costs for staff who move up the leadership ladder in a bid to retain high-performing employees.

On a 7-5 vote, the Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Interim Committee approved sponsorship Tuesday of a bill to let state agencies dip into their own budgets to pay for state employee moving costs. The issue was being pushed by the leadership of the Wyoming Department of Transportation as a way to keep state employees in the fold.

“As leaders in this state, we’re in the business of developing and maturing and growing our workforce,” said Luke Reiner, executive director of WYDOT. “For (employees) to grow, mature and progress in their career, they will likely need to move around the state.”

Reiner said when he took over WYDOT this year, he just assumed he and other department directors could pay state employees’ moving costs tied to a promotion. But not being able to help pay for those moving costs creates a barrier that keeps valuable employees from seeking a promotion.

“This is important for the development of our workforce and the long-term retention of our workforce,” Reiner said.

Currently, state law mandates paying relocating costs when a current employee is transferred between locations as part of an agency decision. It also allows the governor a budget of $20,000 per term to defray moving expenses, capped at $5,000 per appointee.

But the inability to help defray the costs of an employee moving as part of being promoted from within creates a barrier to not only retaining good employees, but keeping the benefits of investing in employee training, Reiner said.

While the Transportation Committee split 7-5 on supporting the bill, lawmakers weren’t split on expanding the ability of agencies to pay for moving expenses. Instead, the disagreement came over whether to put a cap on how much the state could pay.

Some on the committee wanted to implement a cap similar to the one put on the governor’s office, something Reiner said he wasn’t opposed to having in place. The fear some expressed was having no ceiling could lead to a lack of bidding for movers, and the potential for massive expenses if a candidate had a substantial amount of moving expenses.

“Something’s got to be put in there for competitive bidding on the contract,” said Rep. Bunky Loucks, R-Casper. “There’s got to be a limit (on expenses).”

But an amendment to cap expenses at $10,000 and another to set the cap at $5,000 both failed to pass the committee.

Committee co-Chairman Rep. John Eklund, R-Cheyenne, disagreed with the cap. Given the fact that moving expenses would come out of a department’s budget, and the bill’s language only allowed the option to pay and doesn’t mandate all expenses would be covered, he said it made sense to leave it to the department head’s discretion.

“I think we’ll get a better deal if we let them negotiate it,” Eklund said.

The bill will now head to the full Legislature’s budget session in early 2020.

Ramsey Scott is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. He can be reached at 307-633-3124 or rscott@wyomingnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RamseyWyoming.

Ramsey Scott is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. He can be reached at 307-633-3124 or rscott@wyomingnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RamseyWyoming.

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