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This week I attended two days of the Judiciary Interim Committee. There were several juvenile justice related topics on the agenda. During my attendance at these long and sometimes heated meetings a junior legislator asked out loud (in frustration) if anyone knew whether juvenile crime in Wyoming was actually decreasing.
This legislator had heard that juvenile crime overall was decreasing nationally and wanted to know if the same was true for Wyoming.
Wyoming and Federal Funds: A Preview Featured
In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on April 10 Wayne Hoffman of the Idaho Freedom Foundation expressed concerns over states' dependency on federal funds. It is refreshing to see that this topic is gaining interest among free-market think tanks, although Hoffman is a bit late to the party; my first article on the subject was published by the Heritage Foundation seven years ago.
Overall, think tanks that propose smaller government and more economic freedom have been very reluctant to touch the federal-funds issue. In 2007 and 2008, when I worked for the Civitas Institute in North Carolina and the South Carolina Policy council, I discovered that the institutional knowledge of state budgeting at both these otherwise reputable think tanks was fidgety at best. Neither think tank possessed any in-house authority on how big their state government budgets were; much of my effort went into simply drawing the attention of the management to the actual constitution of the state budget.
If you have been following juvenile justice issues at all you may have come across the fact that Wyoming is the only state in the nation which has not decriminalized status offenses. You may even believe that you have an understanding of what that means. The concept is fairly simple: a status crime is an action that would not be a crime if it was committed by an adult. Examples of status offenses for which juveniles are arrested and incarcerated in Wyoming include truancy and running away from home.
Most states have pursued a path of decriminalization and deinstitutionalization of status offending youth since the 1974 federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) was enacted “…supporting the development of community-based treatment programs and prohibiting incarceration of these youths”.
On Monday I mentioned that the Alaska state government is fighting a deep hole in their state's General Fund: after having ignored increasingly prominent signals of the state's finances being unsustainable, legislators in Juneau have now been forced to put together a panic-driven spending-cut package equal to seven percent of the General Fund.
And that is for one year only. The reason behind their dramatic spending cuts is, namely, that oil prices have dropped dramatically: from January 2014 to January 2015 the barrel price of Alaska North Slope crude oil dropped from $93 to $39. That is a 58-percent drop, and there is little to no reason for the Alaska legislators to expect a rebound in prices. Add a 7.3-percent production volume drop and the situation is downright precarious up in the Last Frontier state.
Leadership or Fiscal Panic Featured
Back in 1963, in one of his greatest hits, Bob Dylan asked: “How many times must a man look up before he can see the sky?” Today, with the looming fiscal crisis in the Wyoming state budget, Dylan might have asked: “How many times must a legislator look at the budget before he can see the problem?”
This is a very important question. Our state legislators sat out the 2015 session without any tangible response to two consecutive CREG reports filled with red deficit flags. Even if our lawmakers ignored earlier warning signs – which they probably did not do – the two CREG reports were strong enough to get their attention.