CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Gov. Dave Freudenthal has mostly kept out of the fray between the House and Senate over producing a balanced budget bill.
But he made an exception Thursday to criticize House members for removing all but $1 from a proposed $10 million trust fund for helping financially pinched families of deployed reservists and Guard members.
"If there is anything that is clear about the next cycle in America, it is that the Guard and reserves are going to be called upon a great deal more than they have been in the past," Freudenthal said.
"It's not enough for us to simply go to the deployments and wish them well. We need to remember that they are bearing not only an emotional hardship and a risk to personal safety, but many of their families are confronted with a financial hardship."
Under the bill, the principal amount would remain untouched and earnings from the state treasurer's investment of the money would be used as a last resort to help eligible immediate relatives of deployed Guard members and reservists.
In an effort to balance the budget, House Speaker Fred Parady, R-Rock Springs, proposed the funding reduction - along with boosting the funding for administering the program from $100,000 to $600,000 - in an amendment the House passed Tuesday.
The House passed the overall bill 55-4 on Wednesday.
Because the Senate voted 27-3 against the change, the bill next heads to a committee of three representatives and three senators to work out a compromise, although the outcome of the budget talks could affect the bill's final shape.
Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, arguing against the House amendment on the Senate floor, said a trust fund should be created so the earnings can help families of military personnel who might have trouble paying rent or other bills.
"I believe we need a trust," he said. "I believe this is an ongoing obligation for the state and we need to establish it so those folks that are in harm's way are protected."
Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, argued for the lower amount, saying a permanent fund should not be set up for what "with the help of the good Lord will be temporary."
He said a large fund should not be "sitting out there that is just going to wait to be used and will not match the needs of the time."
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