I’m sure Texas and Arizona could use $5.25 million that a Wyoming state senator wants to send them to help pay for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.


What a noble gesture by Sen. Larry Hicks (R-Baggs), to come to the rescue of two states that are really struggling to make ends meet! 

Keep in mind that the state of Wyoming has a $2.8 billion biennial budget, and lawmakers in Cheyenne are trying to find ways to spend nearly a half-billion dollar surplus, after putting about that amount of federal COVID-19 relief funds into state savings.

Yes, we have myriad budget needs of our own, including capital construction, school funding, suicide prevention, questionable dams, postpartum healthcare for low-income mothers, the yawning Medicaid gap, mental health resources, substance abuse treatment options and paying to defend all the Legislature’s unconstitutional assaults on personal liberty. And don’t forget, legislative leaders insist on spending millions of dollars to prop up the coal industry.

But Texas has to make due on a biennial budget of $188 billion, with a budget surplus of only $34 billion. Arizona’s 2024 budget is just over $17 billion, leaving it with a $4 billion surplus. Border security, which isn’t actually their purview, would obviously be too much of a hardship for these two states without Wyoming’s generous help.

Remember the good old days back in 2015, when then-presidential candidate Donald Trump vowed he’d make Mexico fully pay for the border wall? He couldn’t get a deal done during his lone term in office, mostly because the Mexican government couldn’t stop laughing at him.

President Joe Biden orchestrated a commitment from Mexico last summer to spend up to $1.5 billion on border security, including modernizing ports of entry and enhancing screening processes of immigrants trying to cross from Mexico to the U.S.

Hicks forgot to thank Biden when he pitched his Senate File 166-Border wall and sanctuary city transport to the Senate Appropriations Committee last week, which passed it 3-2. I’m sure it was an oversight, because the senator had to budget enough time to blast Biden’s “disastrous border policies [that make it] incumbent upon states to act.”

Hicks didn’t forget that border states need money to send undocumented migrants to “sanctuary cities” in friendlier states. Out of the $3 million earmarked for Texas and $2 million for Arizona, SF 166 would allow them each to spend up to $250,000 to transport the non-citizens. In addition, Florida would receive a quarter-million for that same purpose.

Sen. Tara Nethercott (R-Cheyenne), who voted against the bill, questioned the transportation costs.

“I’ll be fighting for $22 million for a Laramie County school and I’m being asked to appropriate over $5 million for bus tickets?” she asked. The other “no” vote, Sen. Mike Gierau (D-Jackson), called the bill “ridiculous” and “offensive.”

“This state has problems; this state has issues,” Gierau said, adding that the same committee rejected spending $15 million to reduce the wait list for a comprehensive waiver for Wyoming citizens to get healthcare.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has already sent more than 15,000 migrants by bus to Washington D.C., New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. 

That includes about 130 people who were thoughtfully sent from Texas on Christmas Eve to Vice President Kamala Harris’ D.C. home. Some of the passengers, including children, were wearing T-shirts in the brutal cold, but were no doubt grateful to get out of Texas. Given how they were treated by the Lone Star State, I would be too.

During a Medicaid expansion hearing in the House Revenue Committee, the chair of the Wyoming Freedom Caucus, Rep. John Bear (R-Gillette) sounded the alarm about a plane with 40 Guatemalans that reportedly landed in his city. He didn’t call them refugees, but did express concern because of “what we know about the border policy in the United States right now.”

Bear wondered how on Earth Wyoming could handle the problem of providing expanded Medicaid benefits to the Guatemalans. A Department of Health official assured him regardless of their status, Medicaid would handle their healthcare needs on an emergency basis, not through expansion.

It turns out the Guatemalans all had their necessary papers, so an emergency bus ride to Montana to dump them wasn’t necessary. I don’t know if Gov. Mark Gordon would have authorized the expenditure, but he does support SF 166.

“It has been difficult to do all that we wanted to do in that we didn’t have the authority and the funding, and so this legislation will be very helpful to us to continue to support these communities,” said Betsy Anderson, Gordon’s deputy chief of staff. She was the only person to testify in favor of the bill. 

We already know what Hicks’ proposal to spend $5 million on border security would do. What could that amount do for Medicaid expansion, an issue the senator has adamantly opposed for the past decade?

Let’s walk through a special deal offered by the feds to provide an incentive to Wyoming and the other nine non-expansion states to sign up. Medicaid expansion would only cost Wyoming $22 million for the next biennium. An extra $5 million from the Legislature now would drop the net expense to $17 million over two years.

But wait, there’s more! The federal government would increase its share of the cost by 5%, which would provide Wyoming an extra $37 million for the biennium to spend anyway it wants. The Equality State could add about 19,000 low-income residents to the insurance rolls in the first year, while potentially cutting the yearly $120 million in hospitals’ uncompensated care costs by up to 50%. In case you need as much help with arithmetic as Hicks does, that’s a $22 million investment to reap a $157 million return over two years, to say nothing of the lives saved and human suffering avoided — at home!

That’s a considerably higher “bang for Wyoming’s bucks” than sending $5 million to states that don’t need it so that they can use refugees as political props and invest in 12th century security technology. 

It would also spare Wyoming a great deal of embarrassment about its legislative priorities.

Remember the uproar in 2012, when a dozen legislators sponsored a “government continuity” bill so we’re prepared if the feds lost control of the dollar, the economy or social order? It called for a task force to study creating a Wyoming currency.

An intentionally ludicrous House amendment was added by Rep. Kermit Brown (R-Laramie) to buy an aircraft carrier for this landlocked state, create a statewide military draft and four branches of a state military establishment, and acquire strike aircraft.

But several pundits around the country didn’t get the joke. Mother Jones calculated the aircraft carrier would cost at least $6.2 billion, as if we would actually spend that much. “Its largest body of water, Yellowstone Lake, is frozen from December through June and sits in the middle of a giant volcano that stands about as good a chance as anything else at triggering the aforementioned societal collapse,” the magazine opined.

But the tech website Gizmodo recognized the story as tongue-in-cheek, noting the bill “calls for a whole list of batshit crazy things.” 

“Maybe [the aircraft carrier] would be outfitted with toboggan rails and slalom F-35’s down the snowy peaks,” Gizmodo added.

Some say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but I’m not so sure. If people in other states find out the far-right Wyoming Freedom Caucus now runs the show, we could soon be allowing other states to use the federal taxes we pay for their Medicaid expansion programs. 

Wait a minute — since we haven’t expanded our program, we already do that. This must be that slippery slope politicians are always talking about, but only if they’re at the top of the hill tossing money to whomever they think is most worthy.

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. I enjoy your rants and agree with some of your points. But I have another question, is it true that the massive “rainy day fund” of the State of Wyoming was partially invested in cybercurrency and suffered huge losses in the recent “dust up”? If it is true, what safeguards are being put in place to prevent investments in speculative ventures in the future?

  2. Wyoming is drowning in money. Those darn feds keep sneaking funds into our treasury, and we can’t spend fast enough..

    The unmitigated gall of forcing us to accept more money for Federal Mineral Royalties (FMR), has put the WY Legislators in a terrible predicament. Posturing by Wyo politicos has been truly impressive! The WY Senate was crafty enough to pass a bill last year to send the money back, before the “Inflation Reduction Act” even was passed by Congress.

    Raising the FMR 25% (12.5% -> 16.66%), has really tied some WY Leg britches in a bunch. No wonder they are all in a panic: How do you keep people mad @ Joe Biden when his administration is sending big checks to people with mineral rights?

    Now that the federal lands are no longer so much less expensive, people who have homestead claims are getting opportunities, often for the first time in more than a generation or three.

    Is it really so hard to imagine that raising the FMR will change priorities? The federal lands in Wyoming are now 25% more expensive to produce FMR. The poker faced Wyoming politicians are running scared that someone is going to notice. Just any day now. . .

  3. I guess our legislators have forgotten the budget problems from two years ago. At that time, news articles were full of bad news and legislators were cutting important programs just for the state to survive. “the CREG, a group of state financial officers, estimated the state’s revenue for the coming two years would fall up to $1.5 billion short of what is needed to pay for the state’s biennium budget approved by the Legislature in March.” – Cowboy State Daily.

    How much did Texas help Wyoming when we did not have enough funds? How much will Texas help the next time Wyoming has a budget shortfall?

    And the big question, why is it so difficult for our legislators to either plan for the future or help the citizens living in Wyoming?

  4. The voters of Wyoming chose these people. Looks like this is what they want. In all my years, I’ve had to sit back and watch an already backwards state continue their trip to nowhere. No wonder the kids and “outsiders” leave.

  5. I have been concerned the past few years that the Wyoming Legislature has been devolving and I think I’m right. Another realization is that there are no qualifications other than citizenship to be elected to public office. This is what we end up with being governed by a bunch of Bozos, Bozos I tell ya. It’s so frustrating having politicians with no more brains than a door stop. Five million dollars would go a long ways in replacing those snow plows people insist on running into on our highways in the winter.

  6. You voiced my sentiments and facetious nature exactly. I would add all this wasteful infrastructure dollars going to projects that don’t make sense instead of helping our aging population get care in there final years of life. Don’t forget how hard they loved and worked in Wyoming.

  7. Evidently, our Senate President Ogden Driskill, from my corner of Wyoming (District 1) would rather spend taxpayer dollars to the tune of $5 million to build 1/4 mile ( at the cost of $20 million per mile) of Trump’s wall than see a poor Wyoming citizen actually have help with their health expenses. From what I have seen so far, perhaps we need less dollars and cents in our State budget and more common sense in our representatives.

  8. Drake,

    You’re making this up. Surely Sen. Hicks would rather spend this money on a certain dam.

    Wait, wait. Thoughtful Gov. Gordon supports it?

  9. Please text your objections to Governor Gordon, and the many legislators who will be supporting this kind of idiotic legislation. I emailed directly to Hicks, and am sending to more, but they all need to know that this is one of the worst ideas to come out of this session (too many other horrible bills to mention here). You can search for Wyoming Legislators, and a couple more clicks will give you a list with the envelope icon by their name.

  10. Would be much better to spend that money on Wyoming mental health programs. The legislature is supposed to help solve problems in Wyoming, not to make political statements about issues that do not affect Wyomingites.
    If you want to stop illegal aliens, pass laws against employers paying those people. All of them, if they even exist, will go away from Wyoming.

  11. This is fecking ludicrous! We sure don’t need to send over 2 billions dollars to TX for a border wall. Please, we can use that money for Wyoming and Wyomingites. What a bunch of wack jobs. Instead, lets stick our noses into women’s rights and take away their choice for a legal abortion or even contraceptives. Oh, and lets slaughter our mustangs while we are at it. Remember their names for next election, we need qualified candidates not crazies.

  12. I hope people remember these wackos next time they vote. This is the worst legislature I can remember. Stupid ideas stupid bills. I was born in Wyoming and remember when the legislature worked on solving our problems as opposed to wreaking havoc.

  13. Better to spend the money to provide free school lunches for Wyoming schoolchildren as Colorado has done. Or is this Hicks’ idea or an ALEC suggestion?

  14. What a bunch on nonsense. Using Wyoming money for political ideology is ludicrous. Think of all the good projects that could be completed with that kind of money. Larry Hicks, as Flo said on Mel’s Diner, “Kiss my Grits”. John

  15. Thank you, Kerry. As Ann Rankine says — you put into words what we all are feeling. The legislature has become a huge embarrassment. I wasn’t sure they could sink lower than they have in the past, but once again, they have proved me wrong. Wyoming has so many truly critical issues that need to be addressed humanely, thoughtfully and with adequate funding. And the legislature needs to step up and do its job.

  16. I wish I could put my thoughts into words. Thank you for your ability to write, Kerry. I don’t understand how so many good people have lost their sense of humanity and have lost their belief in the Golden Rule. It is so beyond sad. I’m so glad I’m old and won’t have to be around to witness the end of the grand experiment.

  17. Wasn’t Steve Bannon raising funds for the wall as well? If it wasn’t for red state legislators proposing laws like this it would be comical. But these people are charged with making decisions that effect people’s lives. There is no bottom too low for them.

    1. One of the better memes I saw was when the traitor Bannon was accused of stealing donated border wall money.

      “You remember when you donated money to build the wall because you are racist? Those guys stole your money because you’re also stupid”

  18. The “culture warriors” of the current legislature routinely prove how angry and resentful they are at modernity, women, trans people, minorities, immigrants and how much they love their guns. One of these characters actually offered a bill authorizing the use of violence to prevent simple misdemeanor trespass as if there is not already enough violence to go around. It is like a legislative freak show in which the legislators are always racing to the bottom to see who can offer the silliest bill or degrade himself or herself the most. And they are not finished, yet. Shame on them. Shame on the voters who elected them.