Deliberate decisions, State Auditor Rita Meyer makes bid for Governor
Regarding wind development, wolves and sage grouse, Republican candidate for Governor Rita Meyer says she agrees with the direction Wyoming is headed.
“The Wind Energy Task Force is getting input from a lot of different arenas, and I think that’s a very healthy long-term process,” she says. “I’d hoped we’d get our policy in place statewide before we did the tax last session, and that did not happen. But, even that said, I think the state is going ahead, and the people of Wyoming are working toward solutions that work, while making sure we don’t trample private property rights and making sure we have a balanced approach to how we role out wind energy production and transmission in the state of Wyoming.”
Commenting on wind energy development on state trust lands, Meyer says the Board of Land Commissioners looks at projects on a case-by-case basis. “We are charged as a board to maximize revenues from those trust lands for the benefit of schools and other facilities in Wyoming, but that does not mean we don’t take a long view of state trust lands,” she says. “In the decision we talk about multiple use, developing minerals underground, surface use from grazing and wind energy, and access issues. Those are not easy decisions, but I’ve made them before and have a voting record.”
On the Wyoming Wolf Management Plan, Meyer says she thinks it’s a position on which the state needs to remain firm.
“I support trophy status inside the boundaries, that have been drawn, and I understand that, for our ag community, the predator status part of it is very important,” she notes.
“I think our reasoning is sound,” she says of the state plan. “As our ranchers well know, Wyoming already has approximately three times as many wolves as the feds have described would support their plan. I think Wyoming has done everything right, we’ve developed the science and the ranchers have been up to the table, and I think it’s a sound approach and I support the plan.”
Meyer says she also supports Governor Freudenthal’s executive order regarding sage grouse in the state. “There’s been wonderful work done with a variety of stakeholders with the sage grouse core areas, and I think Wyoming’s done an exemplary job,” she comments. “I’m not very happy that the federal government has failed the recognize the good work that’s been done, and the best stewards are our ag folks, and they’ve done a great job.”
Meyer describes the “warranted but precluded” designation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as onerous. “As we move forward it creates a great environment of uncertainty, not simply for the energy folks, but also for our ag folks and their grazing lands.”
Given where the status sits today, Meyer says she would support the executive order, but notes that it would need to be reviewed each year with regard to what the federal government may do.
Of national health care reform, and how it relates to Wyoming, Meyer says nobody can argue reform isn’t needed.
“I have grave concerns with the current national health care reform, and how it might impact not only affordability but access in Wyoming, particularly in the small communities around the state,” she says. “Keeping good doctors in those communities keeps small communities viable. If we lose the providers, we lose a lot of the bedrock for our communities.”
She says the process of reform has already started in Wyoming. “The Governor, in conjunction with the Department of Health, is taking apart the national health care law, looking to see where Wyoming fits, and if it’s to Wyoming’s advantage to opt out of certain parts of the law. I think that’s the appropriate way to approach it – to see what fits and what doesn’t – and move forward with Wyoming’s pilot project that’s not connected to national health care and see what works best for Wyoming.”
Meyer lists two key concerns that are on the horizon for agriculture in the state as water, and Clean Water Act revisions, and illegal immigration.
“What we see moving at the national level under the Clean Water Act is frightening,” she says. “Changing the definition from ‘navigable’ waters clearly undermines what we have known in the West about our control over our water. That’s a huge issue that will land squarely on the desk of the new Governor.”
She says reversing that movement will take continued work with Wyoming’s Congressional delegation and other western Governors. “The federal government is reaching in too far to control our water, and that would be unprecedented. We need to have a Governor with a backbone, that won’t back away because it’s the federal government.”
Meyer says she expects Wyoming will face illegal immigration in the near future. “Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona is facing serious challenges with her state budget, with the cost of health care, education and law enforcement. She has got to balance her budget, and she cannot do that with the huge draw on her state’s resources from the population that is there illegally and drawing on the resources the government provides. She’s doing what she’s doing because the federal government has failed to act,” state Meyer. “If the squeeze is put on in that state, a half million immigrants will move to other states, and Wyoming will be challenged.”
“I think the state will be forced to take action in the absence of the federal government doing what it should be doing by enforcing the laws already on the books,” she adds.
Regarding Wyoming’s crucial labor in both the agriculture and tourism industries, Meyer says, “Again, that is a federal responsibility and they’re failing in terms of having an appropriate avenue for those workers. There’s too much bureaucracy to make them timely enough for the ag and tourism industries.”
“I understand the state’s budget, agencies and the footprint of the Governor, who names folks to the state agencies and to 1,400 boards and commissions and has the potential to name 24 circuit court and 22 district court judges as they come open,” says Meyer. “The Governor has a huge footprint in terms of opportunities to name folks to reflect their position, such as the Game and Fish Commission, and reaching out to the constituents connected to the decisions that are made.”
“My father was a hired man, so I grew up fixing fence, stacking hay and herding a few cattle,” says Meyer. “I think it’s great experience to bring to the Governor’s office. I understand the challenges ag folks face in making a living off the land, and I understand the quality of the life on a ranch.”