Wyoming legislative committee endorses communications bill

December 22, 2019 GMT

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A Wyoming legislative committee has endorsed adding a 50-cent charge to monthly phone bills to support emergency communications.

The fees would help fund the state’s WyoLink communications system used by local, state and federal agencies during emergencies.

The Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee voted 9-5 Thursday to advance the bill for possible consideration by the full Legislature this winter.

Taxes on the mineral industry have funded the system for a long time but those funds are declining, said Rep. John Eklund, a Cheyenne Republican sponsoring the bill.

“It sounds like I’m in favor of higher taxes, and I’m not really,” said Eklund, who co-chairs the committee. “I’m just trying to solve some problems that we have.”

Wyoming has invested roughly $120 million in the system to date and upkeep costs $5.5 million annually.

Under the bill, the Wyoming Department of Transportation, state general fund and fees from phone bills would each cover part of the upkeep.

Rep. Cyrus Western, a Republican from Sheridan, voted against the bill, saying more study was needed, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports.

“I think given where our budget is at, having anything on the table for discussion is always helpful,” Western said. “That being said, this bill could impact some people.”

A four-week legislative session devoted mainly to the state budget begins Feb. 10.