State of the State: Wyoming
"Preparation for leaner times has two hallmarks, conservative budgeting and savings.”
In his seventh State of the State Address, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead thanked citizens and lawmakers alike for keeping the state strong through tough budgetary times.
Praising principled fiscal leadership for guiding the state through the storm, Governor Mead noted, “Preparation for leaner times has two hallmarks, conservative budgeting and savings. Past and present leaders have wisely done both.” Through a combination of streamlining government, utilizing the state’s rainy day fund (the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account (LSRA) and developing its natural resources strategies, Big Wyoming not only weathered the storm—it shined.
With $1.59 billion in LSRA and $7.4 billion in the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund, the governor resisted complacency by encouraging lawmakers to adopt more stringent guidelines for when LSRA should be accessed. He asked lawmakers to find ways to refill the fund; highlighting the importance of a flush emergency fund, he credited from the drawdown from the LSRA with helping Wyoming remedy a nearly $221 million gap and maintain all its core government functions.
The governor announced Wyoming maintained its AAA credit rating from Standard & Poor’s throughout the three-year energy bust and was ranked “best state to start a business” and “best state to make a living” in 2016. Better still, Wyoming’s economic outlook has ranked in the top ten nationally in every edition of Rich States, Poor States ALEC –Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index. As Rich States, Poor States has demonstrated for years, the nine states without a personal income tax outperform the nine states with the highest personal income taxes in population, gross state product growth and even state and local tax revenue. By not levying a tax on personal income, Wyoming lets taxpayers keep more of their hard-earned dollars to start a business, create jobs and invest in the state economy.
Turning to policy priorities, Governor Mead discussed the Water Initiative’s “10-in-10” project, which aims to build 10 reservoirs in 10 years. He noted four of these projects, to be included in this year’s appropriations bill. The cost of these endeavors remains unclear at this time.
Earlier this year, amidst worsening revenue shortfalls, the governor asked state agencies to make $250 million in “difficult but necessary” cuts to the 2017-2018 Biennium Budget. His announced Supplemental Budget proposal makes these cuts permanent. Remarking on his administration’s success in streamlining bureaucracy, the governor cited the Executive Branch operating budget “reflects conservative disciplined budgeting, the type of budgeting Wyoming is known for and proud of,” which shrank from $2.9 billion in 2010 to just over $2.5 billion now.
The Governor repeatedly praised Wyomingites for their continued efforts and contributions to the strength of our state. Concluding his comments, the governor asked lawmakers to continue strict fiscal responsibility and pro-growth economic policy, stressing a projected $1.5 billion education funding shortfall in the 2019-2020 biennium, and Wyoming’s long-term success make principled fiscal leadership even more vital.