Amid rosier outlook, Wyoming’s governor presents lean budget
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A proposed two-year budget released Monday by Wyoming’s governor outlines a continuation of frugal state government following steep cuts last year.
That is despite a somewhat rosier near-term economic outlook for the fossil-fuel-dependent state.
“My goal is we are prepared to endure future revenue challenges, as they are all forecast in the long term,” Gov. Mark Gordon said at a news conference announcing his $2.3 billion budget proposal for state agencies.
State lawmakers will work from the governor’s proposal heading into a legislative session this winter that will focus mainly on crafting the 2023-24 biennial budget.
The Republican governor’s budget is $1 billion less than the 2021-22 budget approved by lawmakers in 2020 and quickly slashed by Gordon amid plummeting global oil prices and the emerging COVID-19 pandemic, both of which delivered a hit to state revenue.
Gordon reduced the current budget to $2.4 billion over the next several months. Many effects of those cuts, ranging from closing rest areas to laying off dozens of state employees, remain to be felt, Gordon said Monday.
“Government in Wyoming is much leaner than it was when I started. It’s much leaner than it has been for a generation,” Gordon said.
Some cuts, particularly at the University of Wyoming, can’t be much deeper without fundamentally affecting government services, Gordon said.
Yet Gordon looks to boost pay to help retain state employees.
“We cannot attract candidates to even apply, let alone staff our state agencies, unless we can be more competitive in the marketplace,” Gordon wrote to lawmakers in an introduction to his budget document.
State revenue over the next three years looks to be almost $600 million higher than was forecast earlier this year, the state Consensus Revenue Estimating Group forecasting agency said in an October report.
However, volatility in Wyoming’s oil and natural gas industries, and the long-term decline in its coal industry, will continue, the report said.