Do we really need to expand the BBA by using it to add revenue, as well as cut spending? Is the Reagan Initiative, essentially a supply side attack on the deficit, really needed?
The Reagan Initiative was designed for Wyoming, specifically. When we lost there, after having been trounced in Montana, something had to change. The old BBA wasn’t enough, and there was a reason for that. A new approach was needed. I’m as stubborn as the next guy, but ramming my head against a wall gets old.
Despite a 16% decrease from 2013, total government spending in Wyoming last year was $13,000 per capita, second highest in the nation. Wyoming has no income tax, individual or corporate. The State gets half its revenue from Federal Mineral Royalties and Coal Lease Bonuses. Both these programs will be on the chopping block when federal spending cuts are made, if they ever are. Budget cutters in Washington won’t have a lot of sympathy for Wyoming. To them, the people of Wyoming are getting a free ride.
That’s why we lost Wyoming. State legislators, some very conservative, weren’t afraid of a runaway. They were afraid of what will happen to Wyoming if the budget has to actually be balanced. They’ll get screwed. Right now they’ve got one Senator, Enzi, as Chair of the Senate Budget Committee. Their other Senator, Barasso, is number four in the Senate Majority leadership. They’ve got some protection, but they’re very nervous. Enzi’s a big supporter of the Balanced Budget Amendment, but he declined when asked to give us some help.
Half of Wyoming is owned by the federal government. If that land (excluding parks, reservations, and military installations) were transferred to state ownership, there would be a massive increase in resource development on it, allowing Wyoming to make a transition away from dependence on federal funds. The people of Wyoming don’t want to be dependents of the federal government. They want economic independence. The Reagan Initiative is their best hope of achieving it.
We informed Gov. Kasich of Wyoming’s special concerns, and were rebuffed. He wasn’t interested in giving special treatment to one state, knowing where that would lead. Every state has special needs. Accommodate one, accommodate all, and pretty soon you’re unable to balance the books.
So if we’re going to do this for Wyoming, we need to do it for all the western states, from Montana down to New Mexico, and points west. What’s in it for the rest of the country? Regulatory reform. Saving the coal industry, igniting an economic boom, and freeing the states, and the people, from the smothering embrace of the regulatory state.
This is why the Reagan Initiative is necessary. We won’t get to 34 without it. Idaho, Montana and Arizona have the same sort of federal dependence that Wyoming suffers from, though not quite as extreme. With the Reagan Initiative we can get these states, and make it to 34.
If we had millions of dollars we might be able to run a campaign in these states, showing that federal spending is unsustainable, and that when we all go bankrupt Federal Mineral Royalties and Coal Lease Bonuses will only be fond memories. That’s all true, and we could make a powerful case. Maybe strong enough to win. But maybe not. Since I got involved eighteen months ago we’ve talked and talked about getting some money. Very little has been raised. I believe it would be prudent of us not to count on it now. Thus, the Reagan Initiative.
I’m open to alternatives. I’m waiting for someone to show me another way.
Perhaps someone at the May 16th meeting in Savannah can explain to me how we get Wyoming. I’ll be listening attentively. Senate Presidents Niederhauser of Utah and Faber of Ohio will be presiding, apparently. Two smart guys. There will be a lot of bright people at this meeting. Maybe somebody’s got a better idea.
If the western states get their land there may be some grumbling. After all, 27 states have passed BBA resolutions without demanding special treatment for themselves. Why reward holdouts?
Because this is politics, that’s why. Sometimes you have to give in order to get. You play the hand you’re dealt.
When I first got to Juneau I intended to butt heads with Senator Bill Ray of Juneau, a major part of the corrupt political machine that controlled the Senate., I saw him on the street the day before we convened, and gave him a close look. Maybe too close. He chaired Judiciary, which I was supposed to serve on. He announced publicly that he would not allow me on his committee. I had to go to his office, introduce myself, and assure him that I would be a valuable working member of his committee.
After a while, we kind of liked each other, personally. Bill liked to tell me stories, and some of them were pretty good. He got a call from some Presidential candidate, asking for help in Alaska. He told the guy, “What’s in it for me?”
I learned a lot about politics from Bill Ray.