By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
A supplemental state budget that reflects cuts of almost $450 million in state spending must be adopted to put the state in good fiscal condition moving forward, a legislative leader told fellow lawmakers Monday.
Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper, said during his presentation of the budget on the Senate floor that the proposed cuts will help the state weather the financial difficulties it found itself in immediately after the Legislature approved the state’s budget for the 2021-22 biennium during its session last year.
“If we don’t pass the budget bill, we leave the state exposed with a major deficit,” said Perkins, chairman of the Senate Appropriation Committee. “If we don’t pass the budget, there’s not enough money in the General Fund to pay the expenses of the state.”
The Legislature on Monday began its review of the supplemental budget, which reflects cuts of $446 million made and proposed by Gov. Mark Gordon. A supplemental budget is proposed in the middle of a fiscal biennium to make adjustments to the regular budget approved by the Legislature the previous year.
A combination of slumping mineral income and sales tax declines created by business closures linked to the coronavirus left the state with a projected $877 million deficit in its current “General Fund” budget for the fiscal 2021-2022 year, which began in July. The General Fund is the state’s main banking account.
When the projections were first issued in May of 2020, Gordon put a hiring freeze in place and stopped large state contracts. Later in the year, he cut state spending by $335 million and in the supplemental budget, he proposed another $111 million in cuts.
The cuts, in addition to improved revenue projections, leave the state with a balanced budget, said Perkins and Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Nicholas said the supplemental budget, as approved by the Joint Appropriations Committee, is only $1.5 million less than what was proposed by Gordon.
“He did a good job at what he did, he did it in a responsible fashion and he presented us a balanced budget,” Nicholas said. “We commend the governor on his actions.”
The Legislature will spend most of this week reviewing the budget.