Candidates for Wyoming House District 29 talk state budget, revenue | State
SHERIDAN — Three candidates — Republicans Gary Miller and Ken Pendergraft and Democrat Martha Wright — are seeking to serve as Sheridan’s newest legislator, representing House District 29.
The Sheridan Press asked each candidate the same question: What do you see as the future of the state’s budget? How would you balance the state’s needs with the resources you have?
Both Republican candidates for the district expressed concerns about state and federal governments being overgrown and meddlesome, particularly in terms of federal regulations but offered distinct solutions for how to balance Wyoming’s budget despite decreasing fossil fuel revenues. Wright, meanwhile, said federal funding options could be a boon for Wyoming residents and businesses.
Miller said his experience running his own financial firm, Frontier Asset Management, and serving on the Sheridan Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees for more than a decade would lead him to approach state government leadership with a business-like mindset.
As a result, Miller said he would search for alternative revenue sources generated by other energy sources, such as wind, solar and nuclear power. Miller said revenues from gambling and cannabis product sales could also increase Wyoming’s tax revenue, but the candidate said he’d like to learn more about those two possibilities before advocating for them.
Meanwhile, Miller said he would examine the hundreds of line items in the state’s budget as a legislator and determine potential to cut excessive government spending.
“Wyomingites aren’t looking for some kind of free lunch. They just want fair,” Miller said.
Ultimately, Miller argued Wyoming has time to experiment with alternative revenue sources and trim areas of excess spending areas, and he can help find outside-the-box solutions to the challenge.
Pendergraft, who also ran for House District 29 in 2020, took a different approach. First, he said, oil, gas and coal are here to stay; wind, solar and other renewable energy sources are still in their infancy and not going to take over any time soon.
“The idea that we don’t need oil and gas and coal is just lunacy,” Pendergraft said.
Second, Pendergraft argued, there’s no need to recoup lost mineral revenues.
“We don’t need to replace that money…” Pendergraft said. “Wyoming’s government is way too big.”
Instead of searching for additional revenue sources, Pendergraft explained the state’s government should shrink with decreasing revenues, performing only the duties enshrined in Wyoming’s Constitution and cutting out the rest. For instance, the Legislature’s responsibility to establish public schools is included in Title 7 of the Wyoming Constitution but Pendergraft said the state could decrease public education costs by spending less on school administrators.
Similarly, Pendergraft argued the state should not accept federal funds to add charging stations for electric vehicles. When oil companies started setting up gas stations, Pendergraft said, there was no federal funding involved. The same should apply to electric vehicle charging; government spending on such a thing is superfluous, he said.
Wright, meanwhile, took a different approach to the budget question, arguing accepting federal funding could make life better for Wyoming residents.
Wright is new to the political process. In early May, running for public office was the furthest thing from her mind, Wright said, but she became a candidate after attending the state Democratic convention in Rock Springs.
“I realized that if I didn’t [run], the public hears one voice, one story…I wanted to be that alternative voice,” Wright said.
Wright said it was appropriate for state and federal governments to invest in electric vehicle and renewable energy infrastructure, and one of her priorities would be passing Medicaid expansion, increasing health care funding from the federal government. There are federal funding options available to support Wyoming residents and businesses, including the state’s tourism industry.
Margaret O’Hara is a reporter at The Sheridan Press.