A conservative budget that focuses on today's needs and looming challenges

 

November 30, 2023



Last week I fulfilled my constitutional duty when I submitted a balanced budget proposal for the next two years. Consistent with my approach since taking office, I presented a fiscally conservative budget that focuses on needs more than wants. It addresses the pressing challenges of today, but also anticipates the concerns of tomorrow. It is a budget crafted to live within our means, in keeping with Wyoming’s traditional conservative values, and at its core, it is designed to leave Wyoming a little better for our time here.

Today Wyoming is faced with an aggressive and overreaching federal government which seemingly acts contrary to the federalist principles on which this nation was founded. Our expanding industries need more workers. Inflation has reared its ugly head. Higher property values have left our most vulnerable in need of tax relief. And although we have made strides with support for mental health, Wyoming still sees too many suicides. This budget addresses each of these issues –responsibly and thoughtfully.

It wasn’t easy assembling this budget. Wyoming fielded a series of unprecedented federal funding packages which were intended to ease the economic blow brought on during the COVID era. We responded by carefully shepherding these taxpayer dollars borrowed from our grandchildren. These programs are now coming to an end. Wyoming has done her best to ensure these dollars were not wasted, but were in fact put into investments that will benefit future generations that will have to pay for this federal spending. Nevertheless, Wyoming must now face the responsibility of taking control of her fiscal future more realistically and conventionally. We have not yet emerged from the bumps and dips of a boom and bust economy, and accordingly I have proposed placing $265 million of surplus revenues into savings where earnings will benefit both our current needs but also provide for our grandchildren’s future. I have directed $20 million to expand the Property Tax Refund Program that delivers relief to those who need it. This infusion represents almost a doubling of the current program, which has benefitted over 9000 homeowners statewide.

Wyoming continues to be challenged by a federal government whose executive policies are holding back some of our foundational industries like oil, gas and coal that have done so much to fund our schools, our programs, and our abilities to meet the needs of Wyoming citizens. I will continue to pursue key investments to maintain our position as a global leader in energy and natural resources. That includes proposing an extension of the Governor’s Energy Matching Fund program, and support for approaches to use and store carbon dioxide, so that Wyoming’s coal mines can continue to produce and supply reliable, dispatchable power. I want to ensure we are well-positioned to defend our state’s interests in court and proactively manage our state’s affairs.

After calling for $265 million in savings into the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund, I have proposed using $49 million to help grow the rainy-day fund to $1.6 billion. After a focus on saving, we must consider the end of federal funds that were utilized by the Legislature to prevent more significant cuts during the last biennium, when our state’s fiscal picture was much more grim. In 2020 we were able to partner with the Legislature to avoid making severe cuts impacting senior citizens, long-term care facilities, mental health services, and people with developmental disabilities. We will not enjoy the same opportunities today. This budget proposes some difficult reductions in order to preserve ongoing spending at an appropriate level.

I also propose allocating funding to support workforce development. The Wyoming Innovation Partnership (WIP) has already made an impact for Wyoming citizens who want to remain in the state and fill the primary jobs so critical to our future. This initiative will continue to train highly-skilled workers who will fill Wyoming jobs in energy, health care, recreation, agriculture and more. Together with the efforts of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, we can support their work in meeting Wyoming’s workforce needs. Part of being a conservative is not putting off to tomorrow what you can do today, and not kicking the can down the road when we can do the hard work now. For too long Wyoming has put off the challenging work of better addressing its mental health crisis. My budget includes funding for community mental health centers and youth services mental health providers, as well as expansion of the 988 suicide prevention hotline capacity to add text and chat services. I believe Wyoming has an obligation to ensure hope and promise for tomorrow, and my mental health funding package keeps Wyoming focused on the well-being of our residents, now and into the future.

 

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