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Sommersí report

Posted: Thursday, Jan 24th, 2013

Hello, Sublette County. We ended our first really busy week, and I am beginning to develop a paper shuffling method that works for me. Two big issues sucked most of the oxygen out of the room here at the capital this week, and those were the fuel tax discussion, House Bill 69, and Senate File 104, which would transfer most of the duties of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to a newly created director of the Wyoming Department of Education.

Senate File 104 would make the lead executive for the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) an appointed position of the governor and would leave the Superintendent of Public Instruction as mostly a figurehead position. The WDE has had great challenges over the last several years.

The system appears to be broken, but I do not believe Senate File 104 is the solution. My concern is with the process; the legislature should make this issue an interim topic and flesh out solutions in a very open transparent manner. We should then develop a constitutional amendment based upon outcomes from that process and present it to the electorate for their consideration.

The Superintendent of Public Instruction is a constitutionally created position, and the electorate is the one who should make the decision regarding its elimination. Senate File 104 passed the Senate and was introduced into the House last Friday and assigned to the Appropriations Committee. I have not heard when the bill will be heard in committee.

House Bill 69 is the fuel tax bill, and would add 10 cents to both the diesel and gas tax. Our highways are the lifeblood of our state and are paramount to our social and economic well-being. I tried to run an amendment that would have lowered the gas and diesel tax increase to five cents and would have diverted some of the statutory severance tax stream headed to the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund into the highway fund. My hope was to reduce the tax burden on the citizens by diverting some of the money headed to state savings. My amendment was heard, appealed and dismissed for procedural reasons.

I voted in favor of another amendment that would have made the diesel tax higher than the gas tax, as this was an attempt to recognize that diesel burners have a larger impact on the highways, but that amendment also failed. In the end, I voted for the fuel tax increase of 10 cents because we need to fund highways. If there were a silver lining to any tax increase, this one would be that out-of-state drivers would pay more than half the revenue generated by the tax. The bill passed the house on Friday and is headed for the Senate.

My e-mail address is albert@albertsommers.com; please feel free to contact me. n

Albert Sommers, HD 22


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