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The Post Session Spin Cycle

David Iverson, April 1, 2023

Now that we are a month out from the legislative session, politicians are finally holding town hall meetings.  The amount of spin all of us are experiencing is enough to make all of us dizzy.  The only reason that anyone would need to massage their voting records is if they know their votes don’t line up with the desires of their constituents.  The words massage, spin, explain and perspective are nothing more than synonyms for another word—lie. 

Language is important and politicians are masters at manipulating the words they use to convince audiences of things that aren’t true.  The classic case is Bill Clinton’s “apology” speech.  If you read the text of the speech, nowhere in it was there an apology.  All of us, and history, though, remember that he apologized on national TV when he did nothing of the sort.  Such linguistic gymnastics are not constrained to presidents and senators.  All politicians manipulate words to their own advantage. 

The most blatant full-body massage we are all being given is that our legislature saved $1.4 billion.  A better way to put that is there is $1.4 billion they didn’t spend … yet.  The rest of us view a savings account as our rainy-day fund.  It is money we put away and don’t spend.  That isn’t at all what was done with our money.  Instead, the vast majority of that $1.4 was put into what Wyoming legislators call “coffee cans.”  They are easily accessible trust funds to be used later.  A conservative estimate is that we currently have in excess of 80 trust funds ostensibly labeled for some specific purpose.  None of that is permanent and all of it can be used at the whim of our legislature.  There is only one real savings trust fund—the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund.  If money goes into this account, it only comes out in earned interest. 

The money that did make its way into a savings account this year will generate a paltry $65 million in interest.  While that is a giant number compared to what the rest of us earn in interest, in $1.4 billion terms, it’s almost insignificant.  If the story ended there, it would almost be an acceptable situation.  But it didn’t.  The legislature added $112 million in permanent recurring state spending.  In other words, the legislature is spending twice as much as they are bringing in.  In 20 years, that $1.4 billion will be spent.  No matter how you look at it, this isn’t fiscal conservatism; but all of us are being told that it is.  By definition, the 26 people who voted against the supplemental budget are conservatives.  The other 36 are not. 

Except for the 5 Democrats, the Wyoming House of Representatives ran on how conservative they are.  Voting records tell another story.  According to Evidence Based Wyoming, the 31 Republicans that voted for the supplemental budget also sided with the Democrats a minimum of 75% of the time, and most in excess of 85%.  If you vote with the Democrats 80% of the time, you are by definition a Democrat.  The ratings website WyoVote paints an even worse picture for them.  The closest representative to the 26 conservatives is politically 180 degrees different in ideology.  It’s clear.  While they all claim to support the Republican Party platform, it is painfully obvious that 31 members of the House do not.  It’s not politics, it’s math; and it’s the simplest form of it—1+1+1. 

This year, it is pretty easy to expose the spin and massages for what they are.  80% of the time, 31 of our electeds voted opposite of how we would have and with the Democrats.  They played politics, prevented legislation we care about from being heard and they killed bills we asked be passed.  No amount of spin can cover it up.