By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Gov. Mark Gordon released his supplemental budget proposal on Monday, which includes additional cuts on top of the 10% he implemented in July.
This proposed budget reflects Gordon’s commitment to the Wyoming people that the state must live within its means in the face of declining revenues.
Gordon’s proposed budget would cut state spending by more than $500 million and fulfills the constitutional requirement to present a balanced budget.
This proposed budget reflects total cuts to state agencies averaging 15%, but Gordon said he strived to preserve the health, safety and welfare of Wyoming citizens.
“Our circumstances require that we make further reductions in order to meet our Constitutional obligation to balance Wyoming’s budget. These cuts to state agencies will result in the elimination of both private and public sector jobs,” Gordon said in a release. “In approaching this supplemental budget, I have focused first on what is constitutionally mandated, thereby protecting the health, wellbeing and liberties of all Wyoming citizens.
“These are difficult cuts to make and they will affect people and communities,” he continued. “I regret that. While there were some efficiencies gained, I want to thank all our agencies for their hard work and helpful recommendations in such difficult times.”
Gordon is also proposing to simplify the state’s budget structure, which currently includes a large number of accounts where money is set aside for specific purposes. His proposal is for “One Checking Account, One Savings Account.”
“This would make the state’s budgeting process more transparent, reflecting my pledge for fiscal transparency,” Gordon said.
After July’s budget cuts, Gordon took a more strategic approach to his next round of reductions, achieving a balanced budget with some agencies absorbing deeper cuts than others.
“It is a fact that we cannot reduce our spending without looking at our largest agencies,” Gordon said. “The Department of Health, the University of Wyoming, the community colleges, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Family Services make up two-thirds of the state’s general fund budget.”
Among the Governor’s total proposed cuts is $135 million to the Wyoming Department of Health. The WDH cuts will impact programs including health care coverage for disabled and low-income residents, mental health services, substance abuse treatment and developmental preschools.
“My proposed cuts to the Department of Health followed the agency’s recommendations and will minimize the negative impacts on the citizens of Wyoming. However, it is a harsh reality that at this point every cut will hurt,” Gordon said.
The $700 million general fund budget of the University of Wyoming and the community colleges makes up almost a quarter of the total general fund budget.
Last week, the UW board of trustees approved a $42 million reduction plan presented by UW president Ed Seidel.
To balance the budget and prepare for future revenue shortfalls, Gordon is proposing nearly 15% reductions to higher education.
Some agencies, including the Governor’s Office, will experience nearly 20% cuts if the Legislature approves this proposed budget.
Gordon did caution that after these budget reductions there remains a nearly $300 million deficit still as of Monday, resulting from the cost of K-12 education.
This overrun is covered with dollars from the state’s “Rainy Day Fund,” an account the Legislature established. However, Gordon noted that if the shortfall is not addressed, this deficit could grow to as much as $600 million in two years.
This is one area where only the Legislature can act.
“A well-funded educational system is a source of pride and economic opportunity for our state. It is essential for our families and our children just as low taxes are,” Gordon wrote in his budget message. “Our circumstances require that we evaluate all school spending and consider its importance to our state’s future. These are dollars that go into local economies too. I appreciate the Legislature’s Recalibration Committee’s hard work on this topic and look forward to their proposals.”