Better Wyoming conducted a series of interviews on important state issues throughout 2016. Below is an interview with Debbie Bovee.
Wyoming is clearly in the midst of an economic downturn. What legislative steps do you think can be taken to mitigate this downturn?
This downturn is not new to Wyoming. I support the energy industry. I understand that it has paid a lot of the bills in this state. However, we have an over-reliance on this industry so have little to fall back on new industries to our state, businesses that pay a livable wage. Wyoming needs to make sure that the infrastructures in the state are attractive to these industries. We need to look at our current laws and conditions that make starting a small business in our state difficult. After all, all big businesses started as small businesses.
I also believe that Wyoming needs to accept the Medicaid Expansion money from the federal government. That money can help our hard working people in Wyoming pay medical bills and have something left over to spend at local businesses. Our hospitals would benefit. It makes no sense to me why legislators would vote not to accept $248M and then make $200M across the board cuts.
Do you think time has come to use the state’s rainy day fund? How do you think it ought to be used?
I am glad that our lawmakers had the foresight to build a rainy day fund. It is raining now and that fund needs to be dipped into. I think a careful examination of department budgets needs to be done before making cuts. Deep cuts need to be avoided when looking at programs that, if cut, would have a very negative effect on the people who need help the most. That rainy day fund needs to be used to the benefit of the citizens of this state.
What is your take on the current debate over control of public lands? Many legislators are interested in the idea of Wyoming taking control of its public lands. Do you think this is realistic?
I am opposed to the seizure of these lands and I do not believe it is realistic or wise. Even if the federal government was willing to give up these lands, it is not realistic to think they would also give up the mineral rights on that land. Therefore, for those who have an interest in use of that land for that purpose would be out of luck. The cost to the state to maintain that land could be enormous. I am afraid that much of that land would eventually become private land, limiting public access. People in Wyoming enjoy access to public lands for many outdoor activities. That access is important and would be greatly limited if Wyoming took control of its public lands.
Your opponent, Rep. Gerald Gay, recently came under fire for his stance on the gender wage gap. What is your take on the gender wage gap? Is it an issue Wyoming lawmakers need to address?
Sources show that Wyoming has the highest wage gap in the country with women making 65 cents for every dollar earned by men. This issue should be addressed as one way to help build our economy. After all, people who make more money spend more money and those dollars help the economy grow. Our state has the lowest rate of female owned businesses in the country. Incentives and training for women to open successful businesses is something to consider. Raising salaries in fields that tend to be female dominated would help close the gap. Programs and scholarships to encourage women to obtain more education and training is also a possibility. All of these ideas and others should be seriously considered by our legislature.
As someone who has spent much of their time in Wyoming public education, what are your thoughts on the current state of K-12 education funding in our state?
Wyoming has funded the public schools well over the past several years. The students in this state have been lucky to live here. We have been able to recruit good teachers away from surrounding states and to educate all students, from the disabled to the gifted. Educational funding needs to continue to be a priority. Since teaching tends to be dominated by females, paying teachers well helps with the gender gap issue and good schools is often a consideration to a business looking to locate. It’s about the economy.