Lawmakers Consider How To Pay For Major Land Deal

Feb 25, 2020

Credit Bob Beck

Wyoming lawmakers continue working on a bill that would allow the state to look into purchasing a million acres of land in southern Wyoming.  

The swath of one million acres of land in southern Wyoming is currently owned by Occidental Petroleum and doesn't include any private or federal land.

The cost is to be negotiated, although some at the Capitol anticipate a price tag of over $1 billion. Originally lawmakers had wanted to use the legislative reserve account to pay for most of it, but the price could take too much out of that fund, so lawmakers are considering other options.

Those could include diverting money from going into the permanent mineral trust fund or some type of bonding. House Appropriations Chairman Bob Nicholas said he likes the idea of using special revenue bonds, which have been used to finance pipeline and other infrastructure projects.

Nicholas said they could raise money by issuing the bonds and pay off the rest of debt through revenue from the land.

"Basically we are making money on the property, plus paying off and guaranteeing the bonds and not using any state dollars in order to accomplish it," said Nicholas.

The State Loan and Investment Board would decide whether to move forward with the plan and recommend how to pay for it. The full legislature would return and finalize the deal in a special session. The House will debate the legislation this week.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Bob Beck, at btwo@uwyo.edu.