Governor remains optimistic for Wyoming in State of the State
Cheyenne – On Feb. 12 at 10 a.m., Gov. Matt Mead opened the 64th Wyoming Legislature with his final State of the State address.
“What a privilege it is to appear before the state of Wyoming, a state that I love,” he said. “I believe our work has built a solid legacy and a bridge to the future.”
As part of that legacy, Mead recognized a wide variety of individuals, from the state’s citizen legislators, Supreme Court justices and statewide elected official to members of the military, the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapahoe tribes, state employees and volunteers, noting each group has been instrumental in Wyoming’s continued success.
Success in office
“As I look back to my first term in January 2011, we have much to celebrate,” Mead said. “We have a smaller budget, fewer employees, fewer rules and fewer regulations. We have built our rainy day savings, improved technology and created efficiencies.”
Mead also cited development of policies like the Wyoming Water Strategy, Wyoming Energy Strategy and more that have started long-term processes and will continue to impact the state into the future.
“We have not only connected the state with the installation of fiber, but we’ve also created connection between many industries and experts in a number of fields,” he said. “We can celebrate the delisting of wolves and grizzlies and the non-listing of sage grouse.”
While success has been seen, Mead also encouraged the state to recognize its success but also to realize there are more challenges moving forward.
“We must stay abreast of the opioid crisis,” he said, noting issues like suicide and homelessness continue to plague the state. “In the last seven years, we’ve never lost sight of trying to improve Wyoming and the services provided to our citizens. It’s important for us to continue this work.”
Mead looked at work done at the University of Wyoming and centers around the state to continue to facilitate technology growth and development, including the opening of the Integrated Test Center in Gillette and funding for the Science Initiative.
He also noted supported for improvements to the State Hospital in Evanston and Life Resource Center in Lander, saying, “We must move forward with the time and constrained revenue.”
Before looking to the future, Mead said it is important to reflect on the past, stating budget reductions have occurred in four of the last state budgets.
“The Department of Family Services and Department of Health have suffered,” he said. “Other cuts to Corrections and the Wyoming State Fair have been detrimental.”
As the fiscal outlook for Wyoming continues to improve, Mead noted the Joint Appropriations Committee continues its work, and there are bright spots in the future.
“2017 was a year to remember, for the eclipse, increased emphasis on outdoor activities and ENDOW,” Mead said.
The historic 2017 eclipse, which marked the first eclipse since the early 1900s in the state, boosted revenue by an estimated $63 million.
“More events are coming,” Mead said. “This year, Wyoming will celebrate 150 years of the Fort Bridger Treaty, and in 2019, we’ll celebrate the 100th anniversary of the law that gave Wyoming Women the right to vote.”
Additionally, the state has emphasized outdoor technology, recognizing the importance of hunting and shooting sports as important to the state’s heritage.
“We have had the opportunity to do a number of things that are very special,” he said.
“The energy downturn has made us take a hard look at the state’s economy,” Mead remarked, noting that fall of 2014 marked the beginning of difficult times for the state with the energy downturn.
“Looking at history, we see the state has endured,” he said. “We’ve seen diversification efforts, usually coinciding with one governor’s term, and we saw the potential for expanding Wyoming’s economic base.”
This year, Mead said he spearheaded ENDOW, which provides a 20-year economic strategy to grow and expand the economy.
“The legislature did great work to fund the initiative, and ENDOW has taken off,” he said. “I hear enthusiasm, particularly from young people, but I also hear skepticism. We must listen to both camps, but I reject the notion that Wyoming is incapable of determining our own destiny.”
Mead noted, “I’m pleased to report that revenue forecasts have improved. Beyond money, the people of Wyoming have remained steadfast during the downturn. It is our citizens that kept us strong.”
“With our great citizens, improved revenues, large savings, well-funded pension plant, investments in the future and more investments on the horizon, the state of the state is strong,” Mead emphasized.
As he looks to the future, Mead noted reductions in government and the budget have been largely positive, but he cautioned the Wyoming Legislature from making excessive cuts and offering insufficient appropriations.
“We must recognize we can put our money at work to address shortages,” he said. “The operating budget for Department of Health and Department of Family Services have seen cuts that have gone too far. Over-cutting has created other concerns.”
He also said cuts to the Wyoming State Fair and Wyoming Livestock Board have been excessive, and funding for education needs to be solved.
Mead continued, “We have the opportunity to right-size the budget right now. We never want to spend too much, but if we spend too little, that is a problem, as well.”
“Together, overall, we’ve done a good job investing for the future,” Mead emphasized. “We have to take the next step and seize the moment to get it done.”
Thanks to Wyoming
At the end of his address, Mead commented, “Thank you, Wyoming, for the land and people I’ve had the privilege of serving.”
“Wyoming has always been a land of discovery, beautiful to the eye and populated by individuals with integrity,” he said. “Wyoming is like no other place on earth. We’re so fortunate to live here.”
Mead concluded. “I believe this century will be the best for this state, with innovation, diversification, prosperity, natural beautfy and the people to make it so. May God continue to bless this wonderful Wyoming.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.