Wyoming has survived difficult times in the last several years and conditions appear to be improving, Gov. Mark Gordon told the Legislature on Monday.
Gordon, during his “state of the state” address to open the Legislature’s budget session, said throughout the pandemic, the state’s residents have been able to work, its students have been able to learn and it has successfully stood up to federal mandates that were contrary to the state’s interests.
“Despite tremendous challenges, Wyoming is strong and getting stronger,” he said. “We are strong because of our character, resilient because of our nature and optimistic because Wyoming people are doers. I believe there is an undeniable momentum in Wyoming these days.”
Gordon’s comments marked the official start to the Legislature’s 20-day budget session, during which lawmakers will study a proposed budget for fiscal 2023-24 that would spend almost $2.8 billion from the state’s main bank account, its general fund, to finance government operations.
Gordon described the budget as “well planned, transparent and forward-looking” and designed to keep state government operating effectively and efficiently and within the state’s means.
“We have not seen the end to the assault on our state’s core industries perpetrated by this administration,” he said. “Therefore, my main focus must remain on the long-term fiscal viability of Wyoming and our ability to fight back. That is why I have proposed placing an additional $400 million in savings.”
A top priority for Gordon in the next biennium’s budget is moving the salaries of state employees closer to market levels and he has put $53 million into the budget for that purpose.
“I regard this as critical to the functioning of our state enterprise,” he said. “From our troopers, snow plow drivers, social workers and others, Wyoming is struggling to staff the very agencies that provide the services the people of Wyoming need.”
On other topics, Gordon pledged to continue battling against policies issued by the administration of President Joe Biden that are harmful to Wyoming’s energy industry.
Gordon noted that Biden’s policies reduced domestic oil and gas production while at the same time the administration asked for more oil imports from Russia and more oil production by OPEC countries.
“Mr. Biden, tear up your energy policy,” he said. “Let Wyoming power the country. Give us the tools and the chance to make this nation energy independent again. Wyoming has it all: the best wind, solar, gas, coal, nuclear and the ability to store 50 years’ worth of our nation’s total carbon emissions.”
Gordon continued to endorse what he called an “all-of-the-above” energy policy that uses both fossil fuels and renewable energy sources to meet the country’s energy needs.
The budget also includes money to finance legal action and work by the state engineer to protect Wyoming’s water supply, Gordon said.
“When drought or the federal government threatens Wyoming water users, our agricultural producers, our industry, our communities, we cannot afford to be short-handed or unprepared,” he said.