By Ruffin Prevost
CODY, Wyoming (Reuters) - In a sign of rising consumer confidence prevailing over go-it-alone pessimism in the Cowboy State, Wyoming lawmakers on Tuesday narrowly defeated a "doomsday bill" to help the state prepare for a total collapse of the U.S. government and economy.
The bill, rejected on a 30-27 vote by the state House of Representatives, would have allocated $16,000 for a panel of legislators and emergency managers to study various measures, including a new state-issued currency, for handling a range of apocalyptic scenarios.
The bill's chief sponsor, Republican Representative David Miller, originally had sought $32,000 to fund the task force, but the Joint Appropriations Committee later cut that amount in half. Republicans control both houses of the state Legislature.
House members on Monday had given the bill their initial backing after striking a "poison pill" amendment that mockingly asked whether Wyoming should purchase its own aircraft carrier and fighter jets.
"I guess a lot of people think if you're trying to prepare for a disaster, it makes you seem crazy," co-sponsor Kendell Kroeker said. "I was interested in it mainly because I don't think there's any harm in being well-prepared."
Supporters of the legislation had cited recent global economic turmoil and political unrest as reasons to plan for a range of hypothetical worst-case scenarios.
The bill would have funded contingency planning to guide Wyoming through "a situation in which the federal government has no effective power or authority over the people of the United States," as well as disruptions in food and energy supplies.
One option the bill contemplated in the event of a rapid collapse of the U.S. dollar was "the ability to quickly provide an alternative currency."
Despite the grim national economic outlook expressed by backers of the doomsday bill, some who opposed it cited the economic reality that Wyoming is faring better than most other states.
"We're in relatively good shape financially, with $14 billion in savings and assets," said Representative Sam Krone, a Republican from Cody.
Krone, who voted Tuesday against the doomsday bill, said other issues like the state's retirement system and public school accountability were higher on his priority list.
"I just didn't see allocating $16,000 from the state's general fund to basically cover what the governor and his director of homeland security are already doing," he said.
Governor Matt Mead, a Republican who co-chairs the homeland security committee of the National Governor's Association, declined to comment on the bill in an interview with the Huffington Post. But he laughed off the idea of being the only governor to command his own aircraft carrier, saying, "If we got an aircraft carrier, we'll need a bigger lake."
Boosted by a strong energy industry focused on Wyoming's oil, natural gas and coal reserves, the state has seen an unemployment rate hovering at or below 5.8 percent since summer. The jobless rate nationally dipped to 8.3 percent in January.
Lawmakers are likely to soon approve a biennial budget that will allocate more than $150 million in supplemental funding for cities and counties. The state has billions in permanent savings and is expected to end its current budget cycle this July with more than $1 billion in its Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account, dubbed the "rainy day fund" by lawmakers.
(Editing by Steve Gorman)