Q & A with Paul
Thanks to Rob Breeding and the Cody Enterprise for these thoughtful questions!
What are the most important issues facing Wyoming citizens and elected officials?
The most important issues facing Wyoming concern education and access to health care, but the legislature can’t do much about either without addressing the economy. Here’s the rub: the economy can’t be adequately fixed without first doing something to fix the funding for education and health care. In times of recession, the demands on our colleges go up. At the same time, it is more important than ever to make health care accessible to people who are suffering economic stress.
Two short-term solutions with long-term benefits are: Use the “rainy day” investments to fully fund our schools. That’s what they’re for. Second, accept the hundreds of millions of dollars offered by the Federal Government to broaden access to health care through expansion of Medicaid.
How should Wyoming compensate for lost revenue from the fossil fuel industry?
The first and most obvious thing Wyoming can do to compensate for lost energy revenues is to approve Constitutional Amendment A. This will allow all state funds to be safely invested for maximum return. Currently, about half the state’s accounts are limited by the Constitution to bonds and savings accounts which pay less than 2%. State Treasurer Mark Gordon has said that passage of this amendment can stave off the need for a state income tax!
What can the Legislature do to curb health insurance costs and do you support Medicaid expansion?
Wyoming is the only state in the union where the number of its uninsured citizens actually increased from 2013 to 2015! This trend will continue since our legislature refused to accept federal funding for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. The first step in containing health care costs is to reverse the trend.
Second, Wyoming should establish its own state-run insurance exchange to try to boost competition. Currently, only Blue Cross/Blue Shield offers ACA insurance.
What is your position on the transfer of federal lands to the state of Wyoming, and where do you stand on the sale of state trust lands?
Like the emperor with no clothes, the legislator who proposes the transfer or “return” of federal lands to the state is trying to divert your attention. There would be no gain for the people of Wyoming in the transfer of federal lands to state ownership. First of all, the expense of maintaining 30+ million acres of public land is borne by the federal government. That is, the other 49 states share in the expense. Second, the U.S. Treasury pays the State of Wyoming almost $26 million dollars a year in PILT, “payments in lieu of taxes.” If those lands were in state hands, not only would we Wyoming citizens be paying millions of dollars for management, we also would lose millions of dollars in revenue. Who would profit?
Those are the practical considerations. How about the intangibles? The state has sold over 700,000 acres of the trust lands granted to Wyoming at statehood. What would be the cost to the rest of us if the state sold off pieces of the National Forests or BLM lands? Why do we choose to live in Wyoming? What makes Wyoming different from everywhere else? We need to defend the treasure that is Wyoming.
How do you think the state should respond to major infrastructure issues, such as road and building maintenance?
Infrastructure means more than roads and bridges. It could mean building electrical transmission lines to make wind-generated electricity more marketable. It could also mean making sure that every corner of the state has access to high-speed internet. The state has been effective in finding and using grant monies to augment tax and use revenues.
At a recent meeting of the Wyoming Association of Municipalities, Mayor Dave Duffy of Worland spoke of “the things that make a town more livable.” Infrastructure also means reliable services, sewers, clean water, public parks, libraries, police, and fire protection. The legislature can take steps to make the sharing of revenues more equitable and allow budgeting to be more predictable.
Why should voters select you over your opponents?
Why me? I am an optimist by nature and a historian by training. I believe in the good that people can accomplish when they work together toward common goals. And I have learned how people in the past have confronted and worked through their problems. Government is not necessarily the answer, but government can provide leadership to meet and deal with the issues that face us. I feel that I have a solid grasp not only of how government works but also of how it should work.