State of the State Mead highlights successes
With several difficult years and hurdles in the state of Wyoming’s immediate past, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead touted the state’s resiliency in his State of the State Address, which marked the opening of the 2014 Budget Session of the Wyoming Legislature.
“Looking back on Feb. 10 at the last few years, we can see our state has navigated some hurdles in recovering from the recession, which marked the end of the last decade and rebounding from fiscal uncertainties that led to budget reductions of more than six percent last year,” Mead stated. “Clearing these hurdles allows us now to enjoy economic growth, higher revenue than was forecasted and resilient communities. As a state, we have made remarkable progress.”
In the past several years, Mead noted that the release of the energy strategy and improved infrastructure, as well as added support for local government and an increase in broadband access by 700 percent are positive for the state.
“Achievements include a pro-growth economic climate, nurtured by outreach efforts, targeted incentives and support for communities, public-private partnerships and local economic development groups,” he said.
Mead also noted that working toward more efficient government has also been an important achievement through the past several years, including merger of agencies, consolidation of technical services and reduction of the state workforce and rules.
“The rules initiative has been underway less than a year, and already, we see progress,” he said. “Simpler, fewer and more accessible rules are an ongoing exercise in government efficiency.”
Mead also noted that energy development and agriculture production have also contributed to the state’s success.
“We have energy development and agriculture production – lots of both, and we proudly have the cleanest air in the country,” he said. “Agriculture is not only a huge economic driver, it helps shape our identity while supporting our wildlife and quality of life.”
“Its value cannot be overstated,” Mead continued. “For ag to prosper, ag producers must have a product to sell.”
Mead noted that as a result, he recommended a major increase in predator control funding over the last biennium.
He also noted that international trade opportunities are also a priority.
“Our state is not an island. It’s not just us,” Mead said. “We compete in a global market, and Wyoming companies are developing and making products for here and around the world. We need to help those companies get their products out there everywhere.”
He continued that with the debut of the state energy strategy, a state water strategy must follow.
“We have heard what people around the state have to say about water development, water management, water conservation, protection and restoration,” Mead commented. “We have a top-notch water development agency. We have the best water law, which must remain intact, so now is the time to put projects on the ground.”
“Wyoming water has served us and will service us well,” he continued. “But we know individuals in other states are taking initiative, looking at Wyoming – at Wyoming water. No one has better claim than Wyoming people to Wyoming water, so it is up to act now for our water future.”
“Energy, tourism and agriculture remain our three top economic anchors,” Mead said, “and we continue to look for ways to promote these industries.”
As a result, Mead has budgeted $100,000 for deep-water ports and $50,000 for liquid natural gas export, as well at $15 million for a test center for carbon capture and sequestration research beyond enhanced oil recovery.
“We need to develop commercially viable uses for CO2,” he noted. “We want to assure that we have a complete mix of energy sources in the future – and coal should be a part of that future.”
Mead also recognized, in his address, that challenges continue to plague the state, despite our success, including the Affordable Care Act and the Environmental Protection Agency.
“I continue to believe the Affordable Care Act is being badly implemented,” he commented. “It has created uncertainties. Some deadlines have been delayed, some exemptions have been granted and the exchange rollout has been flawed.”
Mead noted he wants to see proof of performance.
He also noted that he does not support Medicaid expansion but rather has included budget proposals for health programs, including medical homes and more money for aging and disability resource centers, to benefit Wyoming citizens.
“And the EPA – we seem to be having many battles with this federal agency,” Mead said. “This regulatory agency recently decided to change our state boundaries with no notice to the state.”
“Consistent with this heavy-handed approach, the EPA has also decided that some coal power facilities in Wyoming will be under the thumb of a federal regional haze plan,” he continued. “We have a good state plan for regulation of regional haze. We want to preserve state primacy.”
Mead noted that continued monitoring of EPA’s rule making for power plans will continue to ensure the future of the industry.
Additionally, public land concerns, particularly those through land management plans, will continue to be a priority.
“I venture to say that we in Wyoming know and care more about the beauty of our state, its pristine environment and land stewardship than federal agency officials nearly 2,000 miles away,” he said.
Future of Wyo
Mead emphasized that Wyoming has inherited a great legacy to protect, but the task doesn’t come without challenges.
“We have challenges, to be sure, but Wyoming will address them head on,” he said. “With a bronc on our license plate, we know how to saddle up and tackle problems.”
He finished. “We are in an enviable position, and the time is right to invest in our state, our people and our future. My budget makes this investment. I look forward to working with all of you, the members of the 62nd Wyoming Legislature, during this budget session. May God continue to guide us in our work. May God continue to bless Wyoming and America.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.
In addition to successes over the past few years, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead noted that Wyoming maintains strong ranking within the union.
Wyoming ranked ninth in the nation in the 2013 Best States for Business ranking by CNBC, fifth in Pollina Corporate’s 2013 ranking of the Top 10 Pro-Business States and fourth in the American Legislative Exchange Council for best economic outlook.
“Wyoming was the number one or number two best run state by 24.7 Wall Street in the last four annual rankings and was number one by the Tax Foundation in 2013 and again in 2014 as the most business-friendly tax climate,” Mead said. “My first year in office we gained, and since then we have kept, the highest credit rating – Triple A, from Standard and Poor’s.”
Additionally, Mead remarked that Wyoming has the third lowest poverty rating and the third highest percentage of residence with high school diplomas.
“Our state unemployment rate remains low, at 4.4 percent in December 2013, and seventh lowest in the country,” he added.