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March 14, 2013 8:29 am

EDITORIAL: Feds should look to Wyoming for budget example

Written by Ilene Olson

One of the most immediately obvious effects of budget cuts forced by the so-called federal sequester will be felt in our own backyard.

The opening of the East Entrance to Yellowstone National Park will be delayed by two weeks this spring, thereby saving the National Park Service some of the cost of plowing the roads to those entrances.

Opening of the park’s other entrances would be delayed by one or two weeks as well.

According to U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, both Republicans from Wyoming, that is part of President Barack Obama’s plan to make sure the public feels the automatic budget cuts made through the so-called “sequester.”

Of course, that sequester went into effect only because Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D.C., couldn’t agree on a more common-sense approach to reducing the federal deficit.

In a recorded statement on Tuesday, Sen. Enzi said, “There are ways that this could be done by cutting the worst first.”

“What we need is for Washington to operate the way Wyoming does,” he said. He cited the example of Gov. Matt Mead’s directive a year ago that agencies examine their budgets to identify how they would make budget cuts when they became necessary.

“They wound up cutting 6 percent, but he, as the leader, as the governor, as the chief administrator, was able to say, ‘We’re going to start with the worst first,’ and made sure that’s what they were actually cutting in their budget.

“We have the reverse happening here,” Sen. Enzi said. “We’ve got the president saying, pick the best first so people will really notice it.”

Sen. Enzi is right. It would make so much more sense to cut expenses, for example, by removing some of the miles of red tape that make virtually every government task more prolonged, more difficult and more expensive than it should be. But that takes planning. And it takes time and cooperation. And none of those was provided, either by Congress or by the president, to federal agency directors when they were instructed to cut their budgets.

So, Wyoming once again is providing the example of leadership. Mead announced on Tuesday that he would make equipment and labor from the Wyoming Department of Transportation available to plow roads to Yellowstone’s east and south entrances in order to open those gates on time.

But that will only happen if money for those operations is provided by the gateway communities of Cody and Jackson. Representatives of both communities worked with Mead to reach the agreement.

Mead praised the cities for helping to develop the idea, which he called “a Wyoming solution that benefits the entire country.”

In Tuesday’s statement, Mead explained why he will commit no state money to the effort: “If Wyoming begins the process of trying to backfill lost federal dollars at every turn, we will destroy our own budget and put an additional burden on Wyoming citizens, Wyoming taxpayers. ... To commit these dollars means we would be going down a road with no end in sight.”

However, if Cody and Jackson succeed in raising the money to plow the roads, the state will help send that news to potential Yellowstone visitors.

“The Office of Tourism stands ready to get the message out about the park gates being open to travelers as usual,” the governor’s statement said.

Mead also expressed frustration at the way budget cuts are being made through the sequestration.

“In Wyoming we just made significantly greater percent cuts than sequestration,” he said. “We took a year making hard decisions that allow us to cut costs but keep the roads open, keep the lights on, and provide essential services. The federal government must do more cutting and do so in a way that is neither last minute or seemingly random.”

We couldn’t agree more.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link March 14, 2013 1:52 pm posted by Salty Dawg

    Just don't look to the Game & Fish for budget ideas.

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