Mead targets Wyo strength in State of the StateWritten by Saige Albert
Cheyenne – Kicking off the 2015 General Session of the Wyoming Legislature with his State of the State address on Jan. 14, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead commented, “These are exciting times.”
“It is a new year and a new legislature. We have new faces in the legislature and new leadership,” Mead continued. “We are fortunate. As I’ve told this body in the past, we are fortunate in Wyoming to have a citizen legislature.”
Mead, who was elected to his second term as Wyoming’s governor, highlighted the importance of Wyoming’s citizens in the legislature, mentioning, “We recognize that the state is strong because of individuals who are strong and have committed themselves to our state.”
“Wyoming has come far these past four years. Today, I’m pleased to report with confidence, the state of the state is strong and getting stronger,” he said. “This is because of the work Wyoming citizens have done.
A look back
In reflecting on his last four years in office, Mead emphasized that, while some challenges have been present, the position of the state has advanced since 2010.
“The last four years, we did what we said we were going to do, and we’ve had good results,” he commented. “We built on the success of prior governors and legislatures, and we’ve made great strides for Wyoming.”
Among the state’s accomplishments, improvements have been seen in unemployment, expansion of government and other areas.
“Beginning with the economy, we made a real push for jobs. We made a push for diversification and supporting our big three industries – energy, tourism and ag,” Mead explained. “We’ve been developing and beginning to implement our state energy strategy, and we’ve helped to recruit hard for data centers. Our efforts are paying off.”
The result of this work is that Wyoming was recognized as the leaders in the nation for data center recruiting for the third year in a row. At the same time, Wyoming received the highest rating from Standard and Poor’s over the last four years and was rated as number one for the best tax climate for businesses.
“We’ve been ranked as having the best return on investment for taxpayers, lowest state and local tax burden, lowest foreclosure rate, second most business-friendly state and the third best in economic performance,” Mead said. “These ranking are important – not for boasting rights – but to show the progress we have made in four years.”
“The economy was a priority, and we made great strides,” he continued.
A second priority for the state over the past several years was infrastructure to help communities around the state grow and thrive.
“We continue to invest and save,” Mead said. “We have opportunities to invest in more infrastructure.”
By making these investments, Mead recognized that Wyoming can continue to provide opportunities into the future.
In addition to improving the economy and infrastructure, Mead noted that Wyoming’s government has decreased.
“One of the other areas we have stressed is consolidating government, and we have done so,” he said. “We have addressed backlogs and delays and merged two agencies, and we reduced the standard budget by six percent.”
He also mentioned that consolidation of rules and reductions in employees, along with many other efforts, have created a more efficient and more effective government.
“We are doing more with less,” Mead said.
Education efforts will continue to move forward, including ongoing development at the University of Wyoming and the state’s seven community colleges.
“We will keep working on education at every level – early childhood, K-12, community colleges and UW – for the future of our state,” Mead added. “We have to get education right.”
Mead also mentioned that the federal government and its actions have played an important role in his first term in office.
“Wyoming has been very aggressive in opposing federal actions that affect our state,” he said. “Sometimes we prevail. In fact, sometimes we don’t, but we know we cannot look the other way, because impacts are too great. We must continue to stand against federal overreach.”
He cited legal actions against the federal government related to the Affordable Care Act, wild horse management, regional haze and other issues as being important to the success of Wyoming’s future.
Mead continued, “We have, as many Wyomingites know, most frequently done battle with the EPA. The reason is that EPA rule-making under President Obama’s administration has been troubling at best.”
EPA has continued to target Wyoming’s industries – particularly coal – which has the potential for dramatic impacts in the state.
“We must all continue to fight for Wyoming,” Mead added. “Coal is critical to Wyoming, and we must assure its future.”
In looking at the state’s natural resources, Mead targeted forests and water, noting that efforts to address both are in their culminating stages now.
“I put together a task force to look at the condition of our forests and make recommendations,” he explained. “These recommendations have been included in my budget proposal.”
He also noted that his supplemental budget includes funds for the Wyoming Water Strategy, which was completed on Jan. 14.
“Wyoming water is key to our future, yet Wyoming has not had a water strategy,” he said. “We put together a very good strategy.”
Included in that strategy is a proposal to build 10 small reservoir projects in 10 years, and Mead noted urgency to address and implement the initiatives of the strategy.
Mead further noted that fiscal policy, job training, economic growth and financial resources will also continue to be important during his next term in office.
For the next four years, Mead noted, “Our predecessors made decisions that put Wyoming in an enviable position, and it is our job to continue to improve on it.”
He emphasized that the state’s leadership in energy, environment and many other fields puts Wyoming in a position of responsibility moving into the future.
“Since I took office, my constant message has been putting Wyoming first, believing in our people, local government and small businesses to invest in the future,” he continued. ‘My faith in Wyoming is as strong as ever. As we go forward with courage, respect, civility and motivation – not for ourselves, but for Wyoming – we make the future bright.”
“We have built a solid foundation for our future,” Mead commented. “We will move ahead by building on the solid foundation laid, not by standing still. We have been sowing the seed and harvesting the crop. If we continue to plant and steward well, we will leave greener pastures and an even greener legacy. I look at the next four years with great optimism.”