By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Gov. Mark Gordon is asking state agency heads to do whatever they can to reduce spending and to prepare for more spending cuts in coming months in response to what he said was the largest loss of income in state history.
Gordon, in a news release Thursday, said he is directing agencies to immediately take any action they can to reduce spending and then to prepare for future cuts by identifying programs that can be eliminated. He said such steps will undoubtedly lead to job losses and added he is also asking agencies to consider salary reductions, furloughs and reductions in benefits.
The state’s revenues have been significantly reduced because of declining mineral revenues and income losses associated with the coronavirus.
A state report recently predicted that during the upcoming 2021-22 biennium, state revenues will fall $1.5 billion short of estimates used to craft the state’s budget.
“We are in uncharted territory,” Gordon said in his news release. “We have just experienced the largest loss of income in our history just four years after our second largest loss of income.”
Gordon was expected to address his news release in more detail during a news conference Thursday.
Gordon said it would be impossible to make up for the revenue loss entirely through reductions in state programs and employment.
“But even if every state employee was let go, or if we closed the prisons, eliminated all money going to the courts and stopped funding persons with disabilities, we would still run out of funds at the end of the biennium,” he said.
Gordon said after proposing programs that could be cut, agency heads will be asked to build flexible approaches that could be adjusted to updated revenue forecasts as they are provided later in the year.
“To be sure, the data that we used to model these revenue shortfalls are preliminary, and therefore still a bit unclear, but there can be no doubt we will see a continuing steep decline,” the Governor said. “In any event, our approach to the significant cuts we will have to make must be done strategically, with purpose, and in a manner that assures Wyoming can recover rapidly.”