The Wyoming people deserve a state government that operates as efficiently as possible. My commitment to transparency allows everyone to understand and participate in the budget process. We must maintain a Wyoming state government that provides for all citizens, while ensuring we live within our means now and in the future.
On Monday, I released my proposed budget for the next two years. The balanced budget I have proposed is frugal, charts a fiscally conservative path, and prepares us to weather future revenue challenges. It has been a tumultuous two years since the state budget was last approved, a period marked by a global pandemic, a crash in energy prices, and, most recently, an improved revenue picture, accompanied by soaring inflation.
One of my top priorities is to protect Wyoming from the Biden administration’s continued assault on our state’s core industries. 2020 saw a plethora of unprecedented events – the least of which was the crash in energy prices that had significant effects on Wyoming’s budget. While 2021 has seen price increases for coal, oil and natural gas, the Biden administration is unrelenting in its efforts to eliminate fossil fuels from our nation’s energy portfolio. Wyoming’s core industries are under continued attack from Washington, which leave me concerned about the long-term sustainability of Wyoming’s largest revenue sources. Today’s good fortune is a reprieve, not a solution to our revenue stability.
With this reprieve, this budget will allow for some savings, while maintaining current funding levels for education and avoiding further cuts to state government. It is my goal to save more than $400 million in additional revenues in order to ensure Wyoming has the funds to withstand unforeseen future challenges while continuing to provide the important services our citizens rely on. It is imperative that we have the tools in place to keep the ship steady, even in rough waters, and provide the stability that is key for enduring economic growth.
I want to emphasize that government in Wyoming is leaner than it has been for a generation. We have asked our executive branch agencies to do more with less, and they have risen to the occasion. However, we are now at a point where further cuts cannot be made without compromising institutions, such as the accreditation of our community colleges.
I remain committed to transparency in our budgeting process. Wyoming should have one checking account and one savings account. Every citizen should be able to clearly see where taxpayer funds are being utilized. At the start of my administration, I launched wyomingsense.gov, which allows users to see what my budget recommendations are, where the funds are going and any changes to the final budget once it comes through the legislative process. My 2023-2024 budget is located there and available for review. My office will update this site once the budget is final.
In this budget, I have been able to propose a few strategic investments with the goal of providing necessary services more efficiently and protecting vital Wyoming resources. One of these areas of investment is the critically important protection of Wyoming’s water resources. The Colorado River and drought conditions in the West are setting up a battle between states over water rights. I want to ensure Wyoming is prepared to respond to any legal and other challenges ahead related to the Colorado River. When drought threatens Wyoming water users – our agricultural producers, our ranchers, our communities – we cannot afford to be short-handed or unprepared.
Finally, there is the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which will provide some unexpected opportunities. We need to use these funds to make strategic investments, ones that will benefit our grandchildren and generations of Wyomingites to come, not just balance the operational budgets of today. I am currently finalizing my proposal for these federal funds with an eye toward how to best maximize their impact for our citizens and supplement our general fund dollars. And we will ensure that just like CARES funds, ARPA fund proposals and spending are publicly accessible, as well.
Since my first day in office, I have ensured that state government operates as efficiently as possible, and I continue to push for more transparency in the budget process. We must maintain a Wyoming state government that provides for all citizens, while ensuring we live within our means now and in the future. I am excited to share my proposals for the APRA federal funding in December. There continues to be work to be done, and together we can move toward a thriving Wyoming.