Better Wyoming conducted a series of interviews on important state issues throughout 2016. Below is an interview with Rep. Jim Allen (House District 33).
Note: Due to the difficulty of getting Rep. Allen to agree to an in-person interview or one over the phone during the budget session that began in February, in a last-ditch effort to get any response at all we allowed him to write what turned out to be very brief answers to our six questions. Further information on the issue at hand is contained in the comments in parentheses following what he wrote.
Do you support or oppose efforts to have the federal government transfer public lands to state management? If so, would you like to see ownership of the land also be given to the state? Can state afford the costs of managing more public lands?
It will depend on how a bill is constructed. Lands and access would need to remain open to the public. If Wyoming also got mineral rights, we could easily pay for management costs.
(Last year Allen voted in favor of a bill to fund a $75,000 study on the potential impact of transferring management of federal public lands to the State of Wyoming.)
Should Wyoming expand Medicaid to include 20,000 people who now don’t qualify for Medicaid or Obamacare subsidies? If not, what do you say to people who believe Wyoming should take the federal funds? Do you think the federal government will renege on its promise to keep paying at least 90 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion?
It is dead this session (2016) because the Joint Appropriations Committee failed to pass it. In the meantime, we were able to secure an 1115 Medicaid waiver for the tribes. As wards of the federal government under treaties, the Indian health service provides health care but is only funded at 41 percent, thus the need for 1115 waiver. My district is primarily the reservation.
(Allen supported the measure because the Indian Health Service is only funded at 41 percent of the need. For Allen, that means the federal government, which promised to provide certain services to the Tribes in exchange for land, is not meeting its treaty obligations. “It disappoints me that the federal government doesn’t hold up its end of the deal sometimes,” he said after the bill passed last year. “I’m one of those guys that thinks if you make a deal, you better stick to it.”)
(During his 2014 campaign for HD 33, Allen was an unequivocal opponent of Medicaid expansion. “We have a constitutional duty to balance the budget,” he said. “Every time we expand the budget to add another program, especially one that is so costly, then we’ve got to keep in the back of our minds how on earth are we going to pay for it.” But in 2015 Allen was only one of five Fremont County legislators who voted in favor of a proposed compromise budget amendment in 2015 that would have provided for four years of Medicaid expansion.)
Do you believe there is a gender wage gap? If not, how do you account for figures that show women make about 70 cents per dollar a man makes in Wyoming? Is there anything the Legislature can do to narrow the gender wage gap?
I pay equal wages and think the free market is a better guarantor for competitive wages as markets evolve. Laws can only be changed once a year or every biennium, which might be too late.
Should Wyoming increase the state’s minimum wage from $5.15 to the federal $7.25 per hour or a higher level? If so, what amount should it be increased to? Do you favor any increase in the minimum tipped wage, which is now $2.13 per hour?
See above. I think merit-based systems increases wages.
(During his 2014 campaign Allen said he doesn’t support any minimum wage hike. “There’s a labor shortage in this state. There’s a very low unemployment rate, so businesses have to compete through higher wages to attract good employees,” Allen said. “So I really think [an increase] just doesn’t matter. There’s a lot of good paying jobs out there and there’s a lot of competition among employers for good employees.”)
Do you think the laws now on the book cover everything the state should do to protect victims of domestic violence? If not, what other laws should Wyoming consider?
We are looking at that.
Would you favor an increase in funding for substance abuse or mental health programs in Wyoming?
Maybe, depends on the program efficiency.