My two children received an excellent education at public schools in Laramie, from Indian Paintbrush Elementary to the University of Wyoming. I want all children to get the quality education that mine had. We must listen to teachers and provide funding for our schools. The new emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is important, but we cannot ignore other programs. Cutting jobs at the University of Wyoming may save money, but it will hurt our economy and people's livelihoods. Education is our greatest resource in Albany County. We export knowledge and intellect.
First and foremost, Wyoming needs to prioritize Medicaid expansion. It is the compassionate decision because it provides access for working people who do not have healthcare. It is also the fiscally responsible choice, as it saves the state and the federal government money. Rural hospitals are the hardest hit in states without Medicaid expansion. Wyoming has unique challenges because of its small population; it is difficult to access healthcare when towns are small and spread out. But that does not mean that the state should not be held accountable for our healthcare. Right now there is only one insurance company on the health care exchange in Wyoming. The state should try to influence its insurer for state employees to join the exchange. Chambers of Commerce should look for ways to small businesses to band together to create larger pools for insurance purchases. We need help bring more medical professionals into the state, by offering to lower student debt.
I love hiking, camping, rafting, and skiing at our public lands. We are lucky because the federal government is paying for the maintenance of parks and forests that we can use on a regular basis. I oppose the transfer of these lands to the state. The state does not have to prioritize public access on these lands, and the school trust lands are managed to maximize profit. That is why states lease and sell lands to private companies, making them permanently closed to the public. Also, the federal government makes payments in lieu of taxes (PILT) to counties for federal land in their borders. Albany County receives over a million dollars a year in PILT funds. The state has no such system. I will fight against state takeover of federal lands. In Wyoming, our public lands are one of our best resources, and we need to keep them public.
The fossil fuel industry has been the center of Wyoming's economy for decades. But as the cyclical nature of our economy has shown, we cannot rely on this industry forever. Every time extractive industries are not profitable, the state is forced to make dramatic budget cuts that hurt Wyoming citizens, like we saw in the last legislative session. When companies declare bankruptcy, they lay off hundreds of Wyoming workers and try to cut retirement funds. I believe that we need to diversify our economy in order to mitigate these impacts. In Albany County, our knowledge and education is one of our strongest assets. Let's take advantage of this asset and find ways to keep our educated people in Wyoming.
I am a strong advocate for women's rights. I believe that the government should not interfere in women's personal decisions. We should be supporting family planning so that every woman in Wyoming can make educated decisions that are right for her. We need to find ways to close the gender gap, so that women are paid the same wage as men in the same jobs. We also need to value work that is traditionally done by women. They are jobs that nurture our communities.
In Wyoming, we still don't have legislation in place that protects LGBTQ individuals from discrimination. This means, that although people have the freedom to marry whomever they choose, they can be fired for that choice. This needs to change. If elected, I will work to make that change.