Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon revealed his answer to the state’s funding crisis late Monday afternoon, which includes slashing $500 million from statewide agency funding.
The supplemental budget, if approved by the state legislature, would satisfy the Governor’s constitutional requirement to present a balanced budget, effectively reducing it from $3.3 billion to $2.4 billion, Gordon said during a televised press conference Nov. 16.
“I don’t have ways to raise revenues,” he said. “I only have the ability to balance the budget with what we have in it.”
The cuts come on top of the previous 10% cut announced earlier this year, effectively reducing statewide agency funding by a total of 15%, Gordon said during the conference.
“I think it’s time we face up to these facts,” Gordon said. “Without improving our revenue picture, these cuts will most likely be permanent.”
Funding for the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) will be reduced by $135 million. This falls on the heels of the first round of cuts in August, where the agency’s annual budget was cut by $89 million, encompassing 9% of the state’s general fund reductions.
The cuts to the WDH will reduce the agency’s ability to provide support for residents at risk of premature institutionalization as well as for early childhood development and educational programs. Funding will be stopped entirely for child immunization programs.
Cuts will be made across nearly all statewide agencies, including the Department of Family Services, Corrections, and several others.
“There is absolutely no way to affect the types of cuts that we’ve had to do without looking at each of those agencies,” Gordon stated.
Colleges statewide, including the University of Wyoming, will also see cuts heading their way, spelling the end for some student assistance programs. One such program, The Wyoming Works Program, was already eliminated earlier this year because “we just don’t have the funds to continue it,” Gordon said.
He added that the state will continue their efforts to look for ways to support students currently enrolled in the program, though it could result in a tuition increase for them.
Government offices across the board will see their staffing reduced by 62 currently-filled positions and 44 vacant positions, on top of the 21 lay-offs and the elimination of 253 vacant positions announced in August.
Despite appearances, however, the cuts were not the result of a hack and slash approach. They were the result of a yearlong process of requesting state-funded agencies to identify their service priorities to determine what cuts they could sustain while continuing to operate, Gordon said.
Earlier this year, Gordon had requested school districts across the state to voluntarily reduce their budgets by 10%.
“I really appreciate those that did,” he said during the conference.
But even with the voluntary budget reductions and cuts to state agencies, the budget reflects a deficit of $300 million mostly stemming from funding K-12 education, which is currently mandated under the Wyoming Constitution.
If education funding is not addressed in the near future, that deficit could very well increase to $600 million in two years, Gordon continued.
For now, however, the deficit will be addressed by pulling from the state’s Rainy Day Fund, which currently sits at $1.5 billion.
The supplemental budget calls on the state legislature to reduce the number of accounts currently in place for the state budget in favor of a one checkbook, one savings account approach, Gordon said, adding that doing so would help simplify and streamline the state budgeting process.
“That’s the sort of thing that I think the people of Wyoming will find a lot more transparent, a lot more accessible, and it helps during the budgeting process, particularly in lean times,” Gordon said.