Over the last several years, economic development and diversity has been a stated priority across state and local government. At the same time, lawmakers in Cheyenne have an obligation to ensure we are addressing our funding shortfall and delivering a balanced budget. These two goals are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they go hand-in-hand.
Strategically growing Wyoming’s economy, bolstering long-existing sectors like energy, agriculture and tourism, and building out new industries like advanced manufacturing and technology can bring immense opportunities to our state and her people. Growing and diversifying our economy will not only create new jobs and bolster local and state revenue streams, but can help improve the quality of life for Wyoming citizens while establishing new and emerging industries that can attract and retain homegrown talent.
To be successful, Wyoming must have the policies, infrastructure, workforce and business-friendly environment to not only compete in a global economy, but to thrive. The speed of both business and life are faster than ever and we need to make sure government can respond accordingly. That’s why, this session, the Legislature has been focused on increasing access to higher education and workforce training opportunities – including new opportunities for career and technical education, addressing vital infrastructure needs and removing regulatory barriers.
Building on the success – and momentum – of Endow, the Legislature has aimed to create more opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs. That means continuing work to expand broadband across Wyoming and ensure every community has quality, high-speed access to help meet our education, business and healthcare needs. We’ve also advanced legislation to create the climate and regulatory environment for expansion of Wyoming as the business corporation hub of the West.
However, long-term economic growth requires much more than education, workforce training and business development. It requires ensuring Wyoming is in a strong fiscal position, living within our means, becoming more efficient in our operation, looking at additional opportunities to modernize revenue streams and building out sustainable budgets across state government.
Members of the Joint Appropriations Committee (JAC) have been committed to delivering a balanced budget reflective of the priorities and values of the people of Wyoming. Pressure to address major shortfalls in state budgets has been minimal, thanks to relatively stable revenues over the past year. The JAC has worked hard over the past several weeks to pass a budget, representing approximately one percent of all state appropriations, that ensures state agencies have the resources they need to meet the needs of Wyoming’s people while prioritizing areas of government that can help spur economic growth.
House Bill 1, General Government Appropriations, is a supplemental budget bill for the operation of state government. The state operates on a biennial budget for all executive, legislative and judicial branch agencies as well as K-12 education, community colleges and the University of Wyoming. Budgets are built for two fiscal years of operations every other year during the Legislature’s Budget Session. During this year’s General Session, JAC was tasked with examining agency budgets in light of recent revenue forecasts, modifying prior appropriations and making additional ones. We also looked for opportunities to eliminate obsolete programs, combine duplicative programs and revise programs in need of updates. To continue the work of the Wyoming Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission, JAC worked to remove legislative barriers to their recommendations.
The final budget represents months of hard work and compromise. Like any good legislation, there was give-and-take. However, we had a shared goal of meeting the education and service needs of Wyoming people and communities while putting forth a budget capable of supporting the economies of today and tomorrow at a price the taxpayers of Wyoming can afford.