- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Wyoming House and Senate remained deadlocked Wednesday over how to allocate $105 million from the state’s “rainy day” fund to counties and local governments.

A conference committee of lawmakers failed to agree on a distribution formula for the funds on Tuesday night. While the House appointed members to a second conference committee on Wednesday, the Senate did not do so.

Legislative leaders said Wednesday that they’re not clear how the situation will be resolved. The legislative session is scheduled to conclude on Friday.

The Senate has amended the local government funding bill to earmark 10 percent of the roughly $60-million municipal portion of the funding to so-called hardship communities, meaning cities and towns that have limited tax revenues and lower assessed property valuations. The effect of the Senate proposal would be to reduce funding for Casper and other larger cities.

House conferees on Tuesday rejected the Senate proposal.

Senate President Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie, didn’t appoint a new negotiating team on Wednesday.

“Part of the problem is that Senate took a compromise position trying to push the resolution much more quickly,” Nicholas said. “They rejected that, so it’s hard to figure out what to do for a middle ground.”

House Speaker Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, said Wednesday that he has appointed a second committee to try to resolve the impasse while the Senate has not.

“I’ve done everything I can to move it forward to a point where we can negotiate, and it’s out of my hands, out of my control,” Brown said.

Gov. Matt Mead, in his budget recommendations, and the Joint Appropriations Committee had both called for substantial state funding for local governments. Both the House and the Senate versions of the pending bill would take the $105 million in local government funding from the state’s $1.8-billion rainy day fund. The local government funding bill is one of a handful of separate budget bills moving through this session.

Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, had served on the original House conference committee and has been named by Brown to the second team representing the House. Harshman, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said Wednesday, “We’ll just have to stay tuned.”

Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, was one of the sponsors of the Senate amendment. “The current distribution system has a hardship system, and has for many years,” he said.

“The Senate would like to maintain a significant enough hardship component that we have a distribution to those who are below the median,” Rothfuss said.

The Senate version of the bill calls for any community below the median to receive some hardship payments while the poorest ones would receive the most per capita, Rothfuss said. No municipalities above the median would receive any hardship funds, he said.

“Which is why it’s unpopular, as you can imagine, with those communities that are above the median,” Rothfuss said.

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