I will work with my constituents and fellow legislators to make Wyoming a prosperous, attractive and inviting place for our citizens now and for generations to come.
We all agree that the budget is the top concern facing the State of Wyoming. Budget concerns cut across every segment of the Wyoming economy. I feel uniquely prepared to help the state navigate these challenging budgetary times. I have owned businesses in Cody for over 25 years. My primary responsibility is to assure the financial success of our businesses. I achieve this by developing long and short term financial & marketing plans, as well as overseeing everyday operations.
That preparation is combined with my six years on the Wyoming Office of Tourism Board managing a $25 million budget. When we were directed by the governor to make budget cuts, as chairman, I guided the board through a thoughtful and strategic process to make cuts that would have the least impact the tourism industry which is so important to Park County. I am ready to use that knowledge and experience to represent Park County in the state legislature!
Before determining cuts in state programs/services, legislators should consult their constituents and determine priorities on the basis of what is wanted but also on what is the best investment in the people and economy of the state. There should also be agreed- upon, written guidelines about when, why and how funds can be budgeted from the rainy day account.
I support budget cuts, but rather than across-the- board cuts I recommend strategic reductions – directing agencies to optimize efficiencies in their programs and projects.
Tourism is Wyoming’s second largest industry. The benefits of a thriving tourism economy are seen in Park County and across the state. Tourism adds value in times of economic prosperity and is a stabilizing force during periods of revenue decline.
I have recently earned the endorsement of the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association. In his letter, WLRA Executive Director Chris Brown stated "Her extensive career as a small business owner combined with the leadership she has demonstrated as the Chairman and long time member of the Wyoming Tourism Board has provided her with an exceptional level of experience.”
My service to the tourism industry on the Park County Travel Council and Wyoming Tourism Board has given me insight on the legislative budget process. We had to make significant cuts to our Wyoming Tourism budget recently. I guided the board through a thoughtful and strategic process to make cuts that would have the least impact the tourism industry which is so important to Park County.
Tourism provides economic diversity and much needed revenue. It offers a broad spectrum of job opportunities. Importantly, there is always a return on dollars invested. Sometimes the return is dramatic and sometimes more modest, but there is always a positive return.
I will continue my support of Wyoming’s tourism industry.
Through my work on the Forward Cody Board I have seen first hand how the Wyoming Business Council can support businesses such as Cody Labs, Wyoming Authentic Products and Sleeping Giant Ski Area. In Cody we have been able to diversify our economy with these businesses. I will bring this experience to the state.
We need to be sure that government supports rather than unduly restricts the economic engine of the state. Legislators need to make prudent decisions to manage our resources. In economic boom times, legislators should support growth, invest in infrastructure and programs to benefit taxpayers; in down turn years, they must be willing to make tough adjustments to correspond to drops in revenue to protect the financial health of the state. That’s what responsible leadership does. The prudent path forward is to continue to manage wisely and invest strategically.
The legislature needs to continue work to broaden Wyoming’s job base by forging a stronger alliance and alignment between the business and education sectors. That alliance should be tasked with identifying employment opportunities beyond those on which we’ve historically relied, and we need specific training directed toward those opportunities.
With the decline in state revenues, we not only need to encourage and support new small business enterprises, we need to support the technological updating of old projects such as coal and oil exploration while preserving our environment. UW has become an international leader in natural resources research. Ongoing research in carbon fuels and unconventional oil and gas fields has the potential to lift and expand the state’s economy.
I support aggressively seek alternative industries and businesses, to not just balance the energy revenue losses but also to provide gainful employment for those impacted.
Investment in education – K-12, the University of Wyoming and Community Colleges – signals to the nation and the world the value of a quality education and how important it is to Wyoming
K-12 education is the backbone of our education system. We have an obligation to give our children the best educational start in the country to ensure that all students leave school career or college ready.
School enrollment of just over 93,000 students reflects the steady student population increase of the past several years. Parents are confident that we understand the need to invest in students, teachers and communities. Wyoming’s spending on students, teachers and school facilities is among the highest of all states and draws national acclaim.
The current school finance block grant model should be continued as it has proven to be successful. This model provides the resources to ensure every child can achieve his or her potential.
I support and commit to creating long-term school funding and savings strategies in order to sustain our high standards.
Our community colleges are an integral piece of Wyoming’s higher education system. They provide opportunities for traditional and nontraditional students. Their locations in communities across the state provide affordable, accessible higher education as well as securing economic benefit to the areas that are home to our community colleges.
Community colleges offer both academic and vocational programs to assure students have the counseling and resources needed to complete meaningful degrees or certifications – on time –minimizing expense and maximizing work readiness.
The University of Wyoming (UW) is constantly evolving, ever improving and thriving. UW has a substantial and complex budget. The University must have the ability to monitor, track and account for its funding. Building a fiscal management system capable of producing reliable information and data is necessary for sound management and accountability.
I support the community colleges and UW’s need for steady, reliable funding that allows them to plan in two-year increments.
In 2005, the Hathaway Scholarship was established to help Wyoming’s students prepare for and pursue their post-secondary education in the state. We must continue to invest in student aid through the Hathaway Scholarship program, but I believe it is time to re-evaluate the program so that it iseffective and efficient. Although the scholarship fund is permanently endowed, we still need to be pursuing continuous improvement in all programs
.Healthcare and Medicaid
There has been much discussion about optional Medicaid expansion in the Legislature and by the public. To date, Wyoming has chosen not to participate. There are troublesome questions.
Will the federal government keep their commitment on the federal match?
Will the state eventually be left with a program too expensive to run?
Is the program structured to create a dependent constituency?
These are questions without clear answers. We certainly don’t want to incur additional expenses associated with expansion that other states have experienced. According this article in the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico’s budget crunch has left the state facing a $417 million Medicaid shortfall over the next 16 months, a daunting figure that could mean reduced reimbursement rates for providers and hospitals and, down the road, new mandatory payments for some patients.
Wyoming hospitals and health care providers continue to bear the burden of un-reimbursed medical care amounting to millions of dollars of lost revenue. Some of these providers are struggling financially and if they do not prosper, Wyoming communities will be left without critical health care services. Thousands of Wyoming citizens eligible for optional Medicaid are not insured.
The National Academy for State Health Policy publishes a map that tracks state Medicaid expansion decisions and approaches states are taking for expanding eligibility to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Six states have expanded Medicaid using an alternative to traditional expansion. Some of the alternative plans seem to address the concerns that the legislature has cited as roadblocks to expansion.
I support researching successful expansions in other states and developing a nontraditional program that works for Wyoming citizens and the state.
Local Government funding
Cities, towns and counties are the places that Wyoming citizens live, go to work and attend school. These places are the face of Wyoming to visitors and businesses. Wyoming cannot be prosperous without prospering communities.
When state revenues decline, so do revenues to local governments. This decline is compounded for local governments because of their reliance on state support. As the state tightens its belt, so too must local governments.
I support continued investment in our communities to address the needs of cities, towns and counties.