Better Wyoming conducted a series of interviews on important state issues throughout 2016. Below is an interview with Joey Correnti.
What do you think about the proposal to transfer management of federal public lands to the state?
There’s language in the Constitution that refers to the federal ownership of public land, very specific language about whether X amount of land in a large parcel needs to be dedicated to a territory or a state or a part of a state and how much the federal government can keep and utilize for the required structures, national monuments, parks, things like that. So I’ve heard the argument a lot that the Constitution says the federal government can’t own land, and yes and no. That portion of the Constitution could be a good basis for the 12 Western states that have claimed or reclaimed the land within their states back from the federal government. The argument has already been made, Wyoming is part of it, Utah is really spearheading the argument right now, and I think it’s valid. The management of those lands could be done and is being done better by the state.
I think the federal departments that come in and oversee the management of the habitat and the parks or at least work in tandem with the state office, a lot of the revenue that could be generated from these federal lands should be going to Wyoming, because it happens in Wyoming. One thing that seems to be missed is that when you make Wyoming stronger financially, a portion of that money ends up going into the federal coffers anyway. So it’s a win-win, they move the cost of management [to the state] and direct oversight and they still gain a portion of revenue. But as far as saying all federal lands should be transferred to state hands right now, I don’t agree with that. As far as saying any lands that we deem appropriate should be transferred to the state and the state can do anything it wants to with them, I don’t necessarily agree with that. When it’s transferred back to the state you can maintain the available landscape for the public to use. We have a lot of great recreation and tourism going on here in Wyoming and we need to make sure we keep that open. Make sure the state doesn’t do a reverse land grab from the feds and then turn it into a revenue source by selling the land.
We do need to be careful with what kind of infrastructure [we have], and if we’re going to repair, restore existing infrastructure, what their use is going to be and what the cost is going to be and what the cost is versus the value — especially any new infrastructure we would be putting up on these lands. We have to be responsible custodians of the environment. We have to be considerate that these are public land for public use so there are certain beautification — or at least anti-eyesore — considerations that need to be made. We need to be realistic about our actual needs, what are we going to put on that land to benefit all the people of Wyoming as well as that land remaining untouched.
So I definitely think there’s a process that needs to happen; I do believe a large portion of the federal land in Wyoming needs to be given to the state. One thing a lot of people don’t seem to understand, they get all upset and say the federal government should give this land back to Wyoming. Well, we’ve never really owned it. We went through the process of becoming a territory and then becoming a state and when we did so, we very specifically said that this much will be the railroad’s land, this much is federal land they’re in charge of it. I think that’s gone on long enough to benefit the federal government any way it possibly can and it’s time for Wyoming to be able to manage its own land, but we need to make sure we’re doing it in a very responsible and equitable way for the people of Wyoming, and not just for now, for the next five generations. I want things in Wyoming to still be here when my great grandkids come to Wyoming.
Do you have a position on abortion?
I believe that the Constitution clearly states we are created equal, so that ends the argument of when life starts, it starts at creation. The number one cause of death in America is abortion. I understand the other side of the argument, what about women’s health, and my question has always been, being for all people’s health, why are we paying taxes into an education system that includes sex education? Everybody knows how babies are made. This is an additional tax measure to fund abortion; they’re doubling down on the tax dollars we’ve already spent educating people on how you get pregnant. It’s another personal responsibility issue, I feel, and in the very, very few cases where it’s a detriment to the mother’s health, it’s between a woman and her doctor. It’s a singular medical procedure and there should not be these tax-funded clinics across the land that say we do all of these things but what they really focus on doing is abortion. I could go into much more depth on that, but the main issue that I have with it is that all people are being forced to pay for it with their tax dollars and most people disagree with [abortion], and if you look at the wording of the Constitution, we’re killing American citizens.
So would you favor an exemption that would permit an abortion if the mother’s life is in danger?
Me personally? I would always counsel an individual on the positive merits of not taking a life. I’m not a doctor. There are situations that are very rare that I don’t completely understand medically, first because I’m not a doctor and second, I’m not a woman. I wouldn’t be able to state over a doctor’s opinion in those cases where there’s a certain harm to the mother’s health if she had that baby. It may be as simple as saying, ‘You can’t have a vaginal birth because of this, that and the other, and a C-section is recommended.’ That’s an additional medical procedure. So I’m not a doctor, I’m not a woman, I can’t make certain decisions in these very few rare cases. What I don’t want to see is the continued posture of widespread funding for institutions that think that the first and best option is [always abortion].
Should the state pay for early childhood education?
I’m not in favor of it as a concept; as far as it being an additional burden on the taxpayer I’d have to be against it. There’s far-reaching consequences expanding certain things, as they hold the possibility of not expanding something that already exists but creating something completely new. I’m talking about the possibility of there being a department of pre-education. We have enough trouble dealing with the department of education as it is, especially here in Wyoming. But if there’s the possibility we’re going to start funding this and eventually it’s going to be something that’s mandatory, and there’s going to be this entire division that runs it, that’s just basic expansion of government. As a fiscal conservative and small government guy I’ve got to be against it.
Having facilities and programs available, I think a lot of those would come from the community anyway. I don’t think a lot of community programs require tax funding or tax subsidies, but they could get them, and then when a state or a community hits a crunch it’s always extracurricular activities that take the hit. I think there’s a lot of private institutions — a lot of different types of day-care, a lot of different types of pre-K. I feel we need to be careful about looking into doing something and then approving something with one intent, knowing that there’s a possible second intent behind it, which is taxpayer-paid day-care. That goes back to the personal responsibility I talked about with the abortion issue.
Some people just aren’t ready to have kids financially, they couldn’t swing it if they did take on that burden. You’ve got to be at work and you’ve got to raise your kid. If you don’t have a strong family structure, whatever that may be, it’s difficult to do. But it shouldn’t automatically become the responsibility of your neighbor to take care of it for you; maybe you should have paid a little more attention in your health class and [shown] a little more responsibility with your personal activities, men and women. It’s a shame men can get away with walking away from a bad situation that they don’t like.
Do you believe there is a gender wage gap in Wyoming? If you do, what can the Legislature do to close the gap?
In Wyoming they’ve already spent money trying to figure this out. A few years ago the Legislature formed a committee to research this and they came back with some numbers and the numbers show there clearly is a difference in the income between men and women in Wyoming. What it didn’t go into detail saying is why.
What it didn’t report on was the types of jobs worked, the amount of time spent in that job, the amount of time spent on education related to that job. What it really comes down to in Wyoming is we’re a roughneck state. We have a lot of energy industry, a lot of hazardous duty. It’s not that I’m saying [companies] have a lot of men work, I never said that. We have a lot of work that employs more men. More men decide to do these jobs. Now they have families and there are other jobs that the other spouse will do that might bring in a different wage. What I’m waiting to see is a report that says this woman got paid 44 cents an hour less than this man for the same job, the same amount of time, the same amount of education over the same amount of years. Because we already have legislation in place to deal with that, it’s the anti-discrimination policy.
What I’m seeing here is a push toward a one-wage nation where no matter what you do, no matter how long you’ve been doing it, no matter how good you are at it, everyone’s going to get paid exactly the same. The problem with that is that’s the third or fourth step inside an Orwellian nightmare. What happens when you get to the point where everyone is making the same, or the government gets to tell you sure, you can go to college for free, but here’s what you’re going to study? And here’s the job you’re going to do afterward, and here’s how much we’re going to pay you for that job, and we’ll tell you where you’re going to live and tell you if you can have a car and if you do, what kind of car you’re going to get.
So I don’t believe that there’s any company in the country, definitely not in Wyoming, that will have an interview for an open job position, hire somebody to do it and pay them less because of their gender. Because if there was, believe me, the Democrats would have found out about it and what found what the job listing was, what the company was and what individuals were involved, and it would have been all over the newspapers already. We cannot find any specific instances of these things happening.