Have our state leaders completely lost their marbles? I thought Wyoming was suffering a budget crunch, and yet all of a sudden they’re pursuing a massive land and minerals purchase in an effort to raise state revenue? Although they have cleverly said they want to “invest in Wyoming instead of Wall Street,” what they are proposing doesn’t seem like a very sound investment.
First of all, they don’t even know how much this purchase will cost, but estimates range from $500 million to $700 million, maybe more – no appraisal has been done yet. Shouldn’t that be the first step? Find out how much it’s going to cost Wyoming taxpayers?
Next, they plan to raid our Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account, our “rainy-day fund,” for a whopping 75% of the purchase price. This is money we’ve actually begun spending regularly because our public education funding is running at a deficit; right now there’s only about $1.6 billion in it.
Buying a million acres of land and four million of minerals would drop our savings dangerously low. And the rainy-day fund was not designed to fund idiotic shopping sprees such as this.
Last, what will it take to manage all these lands and minerals? The state will have to add an entire staff of people to manage it, and they haven’t even begun to look at those costs. Is that the state’s business – to be in property and mineral development? Land and minerals take a long time to pay for themselves – if they ever do end up paying for themselves – and we can’t allow our savings to be tied up this way.
I would caution our Legislature to slow down and think this through. We need sound fiscal policy to increase our revenues and fix our budget, and this harebrained idea is not it.