By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Gov. Mark Gordon has asked his agency heads to prepare plans to cut their spending by 20% to deal with dramatic reductions in revenue for the state, he announced Thursday.
Gordon, during his weekly news briefing, said significant declines in mineral tax income, the state’s chief source of income, and revenue losses related to the coronavirus have left the state with the largest loss of income it has ever seen.
State agencies have been directed to do everything they can to cut spending immediately and to develop plans by July 1 to cut spending even more, including by eliminating of programs and jobs, Gordon said.
A report from the state’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Group recently said that the state’s income will fall by $1.5 billion during the coming 2021-22 biennium from estimates used to craft the budget for the biennium.
As a result, even though Wyoming has been spared from many of the negative impacts other states are seeing from coronavirus, it will still have to make adjustments, Gordon said.
“We’ve still seen those reductions and like any business anywhere, Wyoming has go to make the reductions and cuts it needs in programs in the people who run those programs,” he said.
Gordon said he would keep Wyoming residents apprised of proposed program cuts and the impacts those cuts will have around the state.
“It’s important that I speak directly, frankly and without trying to sugar-coat anything about the crisis that we face,” he said. “I promise that not only will we do the cuts that are necessary, but we will tell you what that is going to mean to your community, to the people in your community. Things like whether we can plow your roads all night.”
Any decision made will be made with an eye toward keeping Wyoming functioning and progressing in the future, he added.
“It is not lop off an arm or leg and say we’re good,” he said. “It’s about planning for our future.”
There is no way the state can cut spending enough to make up for the revenue losses, Gordon said, which means the Legislature may have to look at using reserve funds or increasing taxes.
Gordon said he would like to see a thorough review of all tax exemptions.
“One of the things we should start with is all the tax exemptions,” he said. “Maybe they should be eliminated. There are other options out there on the table, but I think we start with where we’ve given up sales tax income.”