Mead sees continued strength in Wyo, despite challengesWritten by Saige Albert
Cheyenne – On Feb. 8, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead opened the 2016 Budget Session of the Wyoming Legislature with his State of the State Address, commenting, “On the state of the state, I’m pleased to report Wyoming remains strong.”
“Throughout my Administration, now in the second year of the second term, the focus has been on strengthening this state,” Mead continued.
Mead started the address by recognizing Wyoming citizens who have made an impact on the state, including the late Rep. John Patton, representatives of the Shoshone and Arapahoe tribes, the Wyoming National Guard, veterans and renowned cartoonist Jerry Palen.
After noting that Wyoming’s people are an important part of the state, Mead jumped into the challenges the state has tackled.
“I have opposed federal actions that harm our state, its industries and its economy,” Mead stated. “Wyoming has taken the Environmental Protection Agency to task in court over such overarching regulations as the MACT rule, the regional haze plan, the Water of the U.S. rule and the Clean Power Plan.”
He noted that the continued fight for coal will be a challenge, but it’s one that provides benefits to every citizen of the state.
Mead also said he has continued to protect Second Amendment rights across the country, adding that a handful of lawsuits are also being pursued.
“Lawsuits are necessary and by nature reactive, and we have reacted well,” he said. “We also have to be proactive, and we have been.”
Particularly citing the Endangered Species Act, Mead explained that Wyoming has been proactive regarding sage grouse and in working to delist grizzly bears.
“I have also worked to streamline, asking agencies to reduce rules by 30 percent, and they have done a great job,” he said. “Contrasting with the President’s use of Executive Orders, my first Executive Order was to strike 197 unnecessary, outdated executive orders.”
“These efforts make government better – not bigger,” he said.
Mead said he has focused on consolidating and reducing government, while also reducing budgets.
With proactive initiatives and processes made in the state, Mead said, “We see our state getting much-deserved national recognition.”
Wyoming has ranked in the top 10 for excellence for data center recruiting, broadband connectivity in schools and rainy day fund planning.
“Other recognitions for Wyoming include the most business friendly tax climate, the number two state for new business startup activity, the number three best state to make a living and the University of Wyoming as number nine for the best value college,” Mead emphasized, also listing numerous other accolades.
“I have also been proactive with the budget – looking for economic development, diversification and growth opportunities while remaining fiscally conservative,” Mead said.
The standard budget for 2015-16 has been reduced to levels below those seen in the 2009-10 biennium.
He noted that he has recommended cuts for the budget in 2013 and 2014, while also growing the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund.
“The Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account (LSRA) ‘rainy day’ account, started in 2005, has grown – nearly doubling,” Mead explained. “It has a balance of about $1.8 billion.”
“Savings have grown, and even with conservative budgeting, economic catalysts have been provided, used and created results,” he added.
While cutting budgets, Mead said that Wyoming’s commerce has grown, with double-digit export growth and improvements in technology.
“I am excited about what lies ahead, and to move ahead, we must provide a budget that recognizes not only the challenges now and in the future but opportunities that also exist,” Mead said. “My budget proposal does that.”
He added, “While cautious, it helps us to stay proactive. It does not overspend, yet it provides for economic growth opportunities.”
Mead noted that his budget proposal provides for growth opportunities, provides spending from the “rainy day” fund and embraces a conservative outlook.
“Under my budget proposal, we stay true to our conservative roots – a priority,” he said. “We must stay true. We must not prioritize projects over people.”
Economic development must continue as a top priority for the state, he added, but other tough issues must be addressed.
Mead urged the legislature to consider health care funding through Medicaid expansion, local government spending and school funding.
“I see you have well over 100 proposed bills,” Mead told legislators. “Make no mistake, though – all eyes are on the budget and on us.”
He encouraged a long-range perspective in budgeting that focuses on multi-year planning consistent with the goals and plans of the state.
Mead further said, “What we do now will either build or stagnate Wyoming. Let’s step up with courage and build Wyoming, take care of our citizens and provide a conservative yet positive path forward.”
“May God bless our nation, state and citizens and provide us strength for the difficult work ahead,” he concluded.
Following the address, House Speaker Kermit Brown, Majority Floor Leader Rosie Berger, House Speaker Pro Tempore Tim Stubson and House Majority Whip Hans Hunt commented, “The Budget Session of the 63rd Wyoming Legislature opens today with both challenges and opportunities – challenges in addressing our budget shortfall and the inevitable tough decisions that come with it and opportunities to take a hard look at our spending and set our state on a course that safeguards against future economic downturns.”
“The state legislature has never been a borrowing operation. We live within our means, just as Wyoming families have to do every single day. While our budget shortfall is serious, it is not an insurmountable obstacle. We will tackle this challenge just as we always have – with thoughtfulness, a willingness to compromise and an eye on the future,” the legislative leadership said. “We appreciate Governor Mead’s remarks. We look forward to working with him in the coming days.”