Wyoming Gov. Mead cuts $64 million from budget request

2012-01-24T07:30:00Z 2012-09-16T21:12:24Z Wyoming Gov. Mead cuts $64 million from budget requestBy JOAN BARRON Star-Tribune capital bureau
with wire reports
Casper Star-Tribune Online

CHEYENNE — Gov. Matt Mead took a $64 million chunk out of his 2013-14 state budget recommendations Monday but left intact money for local governments.

The governor’s four supplemental budget letters to the Joint Appropriations Committee, delivered Monday afternoon, also included no salary increases for state government, University of Wyoming and community college employees.

Mead proposed a $3.4 billion state budget in December. State budget analysts this month said lower natural gas prices mean the state will likely receive $100 million less than anticipated in the two-year budget cycle that begins in July.

Sen. Phil Nicholas, a Laramie Republican, is co-chairman of the appropriations committee. He said Mead’s cuts may not go far enough. He said every recipient of a state program needs to share in the belt-tightening with state employees.

Nicholas and committee co-chairwoman Rep. Rosie Berger, R-Big Horn, earlier asked state agency heads to submit budget cuts of 5 and 8 percent. Mead asked for 2 percent reductions in spending.

“The revised economic outlook requires difficult decisions on services and programs across state government,” Mead wrote to the appropriations committee. “It is also necessary to take a hard look at every budget now and over the next year. It is appropriate to either reduce budgets or to maintain the status quo as we begin to look for reasoned, sustainable reductions.”

For that reason, the governor added, he is removing his budget recommendations for pay raises for state, UW and communtiy college employees.

“Not giving any state employee a raise is preferable to giving raises and laying people off,” Mead wrote.

The committee voted 8-4 last week against any cost-of-living raises for K-12 public school teachers.

Mead also urged local governments to exercise restraint in relying on state money for compensation increases. He recommended that local government grants be balanced between direct distribution and infrastructure funds.

Mead called for $135 million for local governments but wants half to be distributed by the county-wide consensus process for local projects and half to be distributed by the traditional formula left to the Legislature to determine.

One of Mead’s major cuts was $13 million for capital construction at the Wyoming Boys’ School at Worland.

The governor also recommend cutting $5 million from the $15 million request for landfills in the Department of Environmental Quality budget.

The governor made the following recommended changes to UW’s budget:

Cut $7 million for salary increases and $5 million from the capital construction project for infrastructure and improvement.

$15 million for the Performing Arts Building but only for renovation and rehabilitation of the existing facility.

$15 million for renovation and expansion of the Hell’s Half Acre Gymnasium to match with $12 million in UW money.

Set aside $20 million in the auditor’s office for possible acquisition of up to 11,000 acres of land within the Casper Aquifer Recharge Zone east of Laramie.

The aquifer is located on the Y Cross Ranch. It supplies drinking water for the city of Laramie and the university.

Mead wants the money to be used first for the protection of the aquifer through a purchase, land exchange or acquisition of a conservation easement by the director of the State Land and Investment Board with the advice of the Wyoming attorney general.

The JAC members received the governor’s letters as they began to mark up the two-year budget this week. The budget will go to the full Legislature Feb. 13 when the budget session opens.

Contact capital bureau reporter Joan Barron at 307-632-1244 or joan.barron@trib.com

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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