Prepared by: Charlene Murdock, Executive Director
Campbell County Chamber of Commerce
The Honorable Governor Matthew H. Mead addressed the Wyoming State Legislature on January 11, 2017, to kick off the 64th legislative session. His address conveyed a tone of optimism for how well the state has managed during the economic downturn, along with prompting for the Legislature to address budget shortfalls in a prudent and responsible fashion and to maintain an attitude of progressive investment in economic diversification measures.
The Governor reported that the State of Wyoming, although facing challenging times of lower revenues, remains strong. The state has $1.59 billion in the Legislative Stabilization and Reserve Account (LSRA), the state’s rainy day fund; and another $7.4 billion in the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund, an in volatile fund that generates considerable income to the state via interest.
The Governor’s fiscal overview includes the following:
- A reminder that state agencies reduced expenditures by $250 million in June 2016; the Executive Branch operating budget is just over $2.5 billion, a reduction from $2.9 billion in 2010.
- The Governor has requested five general fund requests in the supplementary budget amounting to $8.6 million (compared to previous year’s where supplemental requests were in the $300 million range):
- $5 million for local governments.
- $2.5 million for ENDOW, an economic diversification initiative.
- $500,000 for the UW science initiative.
- $475,000 for the UW Strategic enrollment program.
- $160,000 for tribal liaisons.
- Another $21 million in contingent funding has been requested for Title 25 services, and $19.2 million for repair of the Wyoming State Penitentiary, and $104.2 million for the budget reserve account. All of this funding is requested from the LSRA Account.
The Governor touted good news for the state as indicated by the following national rankings:
- AAA credit rating from Standard & Poor’s.
- Ranked as best state to start a business, make a living and best state to retire.
- Ranked first by the Tax Foundation for having the most business-friendly state.
- Ranked first in the Mountain Region for workforce development; and third for new business start-up activity; and sixth best state for business.
Progressive growth was denoted by the following projects:
- State Capitol construction project.
- Renovations and modernization of state facilities like the Wyoming State Hospital, the Wyoming Life Resource Center, and the Wyoming Veteran’s Home.
- Recent groundbreaking of the McMurray High Altitude Performance Center and the Engineering, Education and Research building at the University of Wyoming.
- Opening of the ENZI STEM facility in March 2016 at the University of Wyoming.
- Development of the Integrated Test Center (ITC) in Campbell County.
An overview of the state’s economic growth was indicated as follows:
- Creation of an Outdoor Recreation Task Force to research opportunities for development of growing Wyoming’s outdoor industries.
- Expansion of manufacturing the state through companies like Atlas Carbon (Campbell); Tungsten, HiViz, and McGinley Orthopedics.
- Magpul, based in Cheyenne, was selected by the U.S. Marines as the exclusive supplier of magazines for combat use.
The Governor highlighted a number of strategic initiatives that help position the state positively, including:
- Energy: The need to revise the Endangered Species Act to include delisting of species no longer endangered. The Governor has advocated for changes through his role as chairman of the Western Governors Association.
- Energy: The need to invest in advanced energy technologies and innovation through projects such as the Integrated Test Center, an initiative attempting to capture and add value to carbon as a byproduct of coal.
- Energy: Development of an energy-related industrial park in conjunction with the ITC.
- Water: A goal to develop ten new reservoirs over ten years; four are slated for funding approval this session if approved by the Legislature. Funds would come from the Water Account, which has stable funding and is a set-aside fund not available for the operation of state government.
- Health & Wellness: Development of an annual symposium on suicide prevention.
- Business Diversification: Creation of the ENDOW (Economically Needed Diversification Options) initiative. ENDOW will require a $2.5 million appropriation this session.
- Tax Structure: The need to create a broad-based fair tax structure necessary to stabilize the state’s economy and revenue streams.