By The Cowboy State Daily
Gov. Mark Gordon used his first “State-of-the-State” address on Wednesday to urge Wyoming’s lawmakers to adopt a “steady as she goes” philosophy to state finances.
Gordon, speaking to a joint session of Wyoming’s Legislature, noted that projections for state revenues have dropped significantly in the last three months due to declines in oil and gas prices.
While the state has been good about putting money back to guard against such declines, lawmakers must avoid dipping too deeply into those reserves and must put money back into those accounts when possible, Gordon said.
“It is true that Wyoming has been responsible in putting together savings that can help stabilize the downturns,” he said. “If we are to chart our own future, we must also be disciplined and refill and even augment those savings in good times.”
To avoid borrowing from reserves, such as the state’s “Rainy Day Fund,” the state must continue its work to contain spending, Gordon said.
“That means we will first have to do our best to contain expenditures,” he said. “A lot of that work is underway already, but I believe we must look both more broadly and deeply at finding better ways of delivering services and finding savings.”
Gordon also urged legislators to support efforts to improve safety in Wyoming’s schools and provide a steady, stable funding source for education.
“Over the next several years we must work towards a more stable and predictable way to fund education from our rural schools in places like Bill to our larger schools in Cheyenne, Casper or Rock Springs,” he said.
Gordon also said he was offering a series of proposals aimed at allowing high school students and adults to pursue technical education that would help them find jobs.
“Today, more than ever we need to provide the educational opportunities to enable a nimble workforce to find a job with companies right here in Wyoming,” he said.
The state must also continue to support its mineral industries, Gordon said, which will continue to be a mainstay of its economy.
“We must continue to advocate for all of these industries, including fighting for level playing fields internationally,” he said.
Wyoming will also continue to support coal extraction, even as it continues research into new technologies for its use, the governor said.
“Here in Wyoming, we will continue to seek innovative solutions that support coal, address climate change, and grow our economy,” he said.
Despite projected declines in the state’s revenues, Gordon said he supports former Gov. Matt Mead’s proposed $148 million supplemental budget, which includes raises for state employees.
On other issues, Gordon said he wants to make sure the state provides local communities with the resources they need to thrive, conduct a thorough review of the state’s economic development programs and work with the Legislature to develop solutions to the state’s health care problems.