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Governor Gordon addresses the 66th legislature, discusses pandemic, energy and budget

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Governor Mark Gordon addressed the 66th Wyoming legislature on Jan. 12. during the first general legislative session of 2021. Gordon discussed the “limited, efficient, and transparent government” he has been striving for since taking office. His message touched on major issues the state has faced, including the COVID-19 pandemic, energy, and the state budget.

Gordon discussed the onset of the pandemic last year and his response. He said, “We undertook actions to protect public health. But unlike other states, we have been able to maintain our way of life and liberty and have striven to keep businesses open and kids in schools.” Governor Gordon chose to not issue a statewide mask mandate, leaving health orders up to each county’s health department’s discretion. On Dec. 9, He issued a statewide face-covering mandate, amidst rising COVID-19 cases and pleas from Wyoming health officers. He was criticized by the Wyoming GOP for the orders. Wyoming delegates,  Sen. Barrasso, former Sen. Enzi, and Reo. Liz Cheney supported the orders. The order was updated and extended beginning Jan. 9 and remains in effect until Jan. 25.

In his address, Gordon applauded the work of the Wyoming delegation in securing 1.25 billion dollars in CARES Act funding, the most per capita in any state. He said, “this executive branch together with Secretary of State Buchanan, Auditor  Racines, Treasurer Meier, and Superintendent Balow delivered nearly all the $1.25 billion dollars to small businesses, schools, long-term care facilities, hospitals, first responders, local governments, and communities.” adding, “thanks to the work of the Business Council, Wyoming still delivered nearly $500 million dollars directly to small businesses.” He also discussed how the state has seen seven straight months of economic improvement and that unemployment in the state is 5.1%, among the nation’s lowest. 

Governor Gordon also explained his plans for the future of Wyoming’s energy sector. He said, “much of what underpins our economy; much of what pays our taxes is under assault.  Government regulation and shortsighted investment trends are putting immense pressure on our mining and extractive industries.”

He shared concerns about the Biden administration and his plans to fight any “keep it in the ground policies” from the federal government.  He said, “No matter what comes next we must stay focused on both defending and promoting our energy industry,” he said. “We can’t – and won’t – let the misguided actions of special interests and federal agencies rob our future.”

He also discussed renewable energy, saying, “I emphasize that we are not opposed to renewable energy. In fact, we are pursuing that as well  so it can be an effective complement to our fossil energy industry.”

In the address, Gordon compared the current budget situation as, “a fiscal storm equivalent to the blizzard of 1949.” he suggested ways the government can be more transparent, with a single checking and savings account. In the summer of 2019, Governor Gordon announced 10% cuts to the state budget across the board. In August, the governor announced the first round of budget cuts totaling $250 million, with an additional $80 million to the maintenance of state buildings, the university, and community colleges. In his address to the legislature, Gordon said, “I will offer some other ideas and strategies in the days and weeks to follow. But for right now, our budget situation requires us to consider things carefully and demands us to think big and act boldly.”

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