- Associated Press - Friday, March 3, 2017

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Latest on an education funding bill negotiated by Wyoming lawmakers on the last day of the legislative session (all times local):

10 p.m.

Wyoming lawmakers have approved an education finance bill containing more than $34 million in spending cuts but no taxes.

Fixing an education funding shortfall set top $380 million a year was one of Gov. Matt Mead’s top hopes for the eight-week session.

The House voted 45-13 and the Senate 25-4 to approve the bill late Friday. The bill now heads to Mead’s desk for his signature.

The cuts in the bill accompany a plan to study and revamp education funding amid weak state revenue from coal, oil and natural gas extraction. Lawmakers considered but rejected a half-cent sales tax increase to address the shortfall.

House Speaker Steve Harshman says the bill doesn’t solve Wyoming’s education funding crisis but is a step in that direction.

___

6:32 p.m.

A compromise bill that could begin to address Wyoming’s K-12 education funding shortfall awaits a vote in the Wyoming House in the waning hours of the legislative session.

Earlier Friday, a committee off three senators and three representatives agreed to a compromise bill that would carry $34.5 million in cuts.

The bill also would begin a years-long process of overhauling education funding amid declining revenue from coal, oil and natural gas extraction. The shortfall could top $380 million a year if nothing’s done.

Friday evening, House members were voting on several last-minute bills. The education funding bill was in their queue.

The Senate waited on the House action and ordered pizza.

___

3:51 p.m.

Members of the Wyoming House and Senate have reached a compromise on legislation that could begin to address the state’s K-12 education funding shortfall.

The shortfall is on track to top $380 million a year. The bill agreed to by three senators and three representatives on the last day of the legislative session Friday would save $34.5 million a year.

The bill also would begin a years-long process of overhauling education funding amid declining revenue from coal, oil and natural gas extraction.

Last-minute negotiations centered on funding for instructional facilitators - education experts who coach teachers. A half-cent sales tax increase and mineral tax reallocation favored by the House remain off the table after being taken out by the Senate earlier.

The full House and Senate would need to sign off on the changes before sending the bill to Gov. Matt Mead.

____

3:35 p.m.

Members of the Wyoming House and Senate have reached a compromise on legislation that could begin to address the state’s K-12 education funding shortfall.

The shortfall is on track to top $380 million a year. The bill agreed to by three senators and three representatives on the last day of the legislative session Friday would save $34.5 million a year.

The bill also would begin a years-long process of overhauling education funding amid declining revenue from coal, oil and natural gas extraction.

Last-minute negotiations centered on funding for instructional facilitators - education experts who coach teachers. A half-cent sales tax increase and reallocation favored by the House remain off the table after being taken out by the Senate earlier.

The full House and Senate would need to sign off on the changes before sending the bill to Gov. Matt Mead.

___

11:34 a.m.

Last-minute negotiations between members of the Wyoming House and Senate will decide the fate of their top-priority issue this year: Addressing a massive education funding shortfall.

Friday is supposed to be the last day of this year’s legislative session but representatives voted 51-9 not to agree with changes senators have made to an education funding bill.

The bill now goes to a committee of both senators and representatives to hash out their differences.

The Senate changes include eliminating a proposed half-cent sales tax increase and 1 percent minerals tax diversion to benefit K-12 education. Senators favored starting with cuts and resorting to tax measures only if absolutely necessary later.

Wyoming’s public education system faces a more than $380 million shortfall amid weak revenue from oil, natural gas and coal production.


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