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2009 April 6 - 12:00 am

MONEY TREE: Wyoming Governor’s Veto Exposes Two-Year Schools to Reductions

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A veto by Gov. Dave Freudenthal will enable the state to cut funding for Wyoming’s community colleges over the next couple years, if necessary.

The bill establishes more state oversight of construction and programs at the seven colleges. Freudenthal left most of the bill intact in signing it.

However, he vetoed portions that would have insulated the colleges from funding cuts in 2010 and 2011, citing declining state revenue.

“It is unfair to single out one set of recipients of public funds and say they will not feel the impact of such declines,” he wrote in a veto message to Secretary of State Max Maxfield.

Falling demand has eaten away at oil and gas prices — and state income. Revised projections cut Wyoming’s forecast budget surplus from $900 million in October to $200 million this year.

Freudenthal has told state agencies to prepare for budget cuts of 5 to 10 percent starting in July.

Not to be caught off guard, Laramie County Community College trustees declared a “financial emergency” earlier this month, laying the groundwork for potential layoffs.

The community college bill originated with a task force made up of representatives of Wyoming industries, the colleges and the public, as well as lawmakers. Task force members sought to protect the colleges against declining revenue as a result of declining enrollment, according to Jim rose, executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission.

“It’s safe to say the economic environment we find ourselves in now is significantly different than when the task force drafted the bill,” Rose said of the drop in state revenue.

The governor also vetoed $150,000 for a new position at the Wyoming Community College Commission to help oversee construction at the colleges. Freudenthal said the position would have been redundant.

Rose said the commission would have needed the help, but little money is available for construction.

“We can hold off on assuming a lot of the responsibilities that are in the bill because there’s no capital construction that’s awaiting to enter this process anyway,” he said. 

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