Supplemental budget proposed
Cheyenne – On Dec. 1, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead proposed a $156 million supplemental budget to the Joint Appropriations Committee, and bills will be submitted by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to be considered during the 2015 general session.
“My budget proposal is big on substance, modest in size – totaling about $156 million, excluding school and school construction funding which is handled separately and also remains flattened,” Mead said in his budget request.
With the resources available to the state, Mead recommended a budget of approximately $17 million for state government operations. He also recommended $51 million, to be matched by private donations, for research, athletic programs and a high altitude training facility at UW.
Governor Mead also added just over $30 million for local governments in his supplemental budget. At the same time, state agency supplemental requests equaled $17 million.
“Wyoming is fiscally strong,” Mead commented.
Supporting those claims, Mead cited that the state exceeded revenue projections, with more than $260 million in capital gains.
Savings success was also seen in the growth of the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account (LRSA) fund, also called the rainy day fund, from $1.7 billion to nearly $2 billion.
“The Permanent Mineral Trust Fund (PWMTF) has grown by more than 55 percent – remarkable increases,” he added. “The state has over $12 billion in savings in permanent and liquid accounts.”
“These savings need to be balanced against infrastructure needs and investment in those things that help Wyoming grow and provide opportunities for future generations,” Mead continued. “We are in position. We have cash on hand.”
Rainy day fund
As part of his supplemental request, Mead looked at the rainy day fund, which has more than doubled during his term.
“The supplemental budget recognizes the importance of savings,” he said. “Savings result from unspent money invested and earning income.”
Mead continued, “Our state has saved massively. We now need to answer important questions.”
Mead asked the legislature to consider how much money should be saved. He also urged legislators to determine what constitutes a rainy day and asked whether money should be invested in other ways to pay for future needs.
Mead made some recommendations that are one-time expenditures, saying, “Such one-time only items are not permanent in nature, yet they are vital to keeping Wyoming strong.”
Included in these recommendations are the Wyoming Grown Initiative, which focuses on bringing Wyoming youth back to the state and funding for local governments.
The supplemental budget also targeted natural resources, including forests, wildlife and water.
Mead noted that Wyoming’s leadership in balancing conservation and development has earned the state respect from around the country.
“Forest health is an excellent example,” he continued. “A state task force has looked closely at forest health in Wyoming and made recommendations for improvement.”
His supplemental budget allocates $705,000 to implement those recommendations.
Further, Mead recommended full funding of the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust Fund (WWNRT).
Finally, the Wyoming Water Strategy was cited in the request, where Mead noted, “Our most valuable resource is water, and it is a resource worthy of our full attention.”
To continue to fund water development projects, Mead recommended $18.6 million to water development funding.
Also included in his supplemental budget is funding for Wyoming’s secondary education.
“The University of Wyoming has been a key partner to the state and private sector and a source of pride to Wyoming since it was founded in 1886,” Mead said. “We must continue to invest in those things that advance UW’s ability to attract students, deliver a top-notch education and partner with private industry.”
The UW Science Initiative is an additional aspect of the supplemental budget Mead strongly supports.
“The UW Top-Tier Science Programs and Facilities Task Force has developed a plan to address outdated science laboratories at UW and to improve the quality of instruction and research at UW,” Mead explained.
The initiative proposes to “change the way science is taught, using active learning and classroom spaces.”
The funding for the initiative includes $750,000 for initial program needs and $3 million for level two funding.
Other budget items included are $1 million for UW retention increases for staff salaries and $375,000 for staffing operations and maintenance, as well as $125,000 for equipment-related needs.
In looking at community colleges, Mead recommended funds for nine projects, three of which include a state fund component. The total for the projects is $810,000.
For the continued success of Wyoming, Mead emphasized that he believes each project in his supplemental recommendation should be funded.
He also said, “I have prepared a budget which I believe strikes a good balance between operations, infrastructure investment and savings – one that initiates robust discussions to move Wyoming forward.”
“Wyoming success is no accident,” he continued. “It requires vigilance and discipline to ensure that operating budgets are properly constructed for the delivery of appropriate government services to target necessary savings and to balance infrastructure investment and existing infrastructure maintenance.”
“We have much in common – the best interests of Wyoming and its citizens – to guide our dialogue,” Mead said. “We stand ready to discuss the recommendations.”
The Wyoming Legislature will discuss Mead’s budget request during the 2015 General Session, which begins on Jan. 13. Look for weekly coverage of the session in the Roundup.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.