Wyoming governor: 10% cuts submitted, 10% more to follow

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming state agencies have submitted plans for 10% budget cuts that could eliminate services for children and the elderly and slash funding for mental health programs, Gov. Mark Gordon said.

Another 10% cut across state agencies and layoffs will follow as Wyoming faces a steep decline in revenue, Gordon said at a news conference Wednesday.

“There will be reductions in force,” Gordon said. “That’s not good. It means the level of service the state is able to give its citizens will be reduced. But as governor, these are the choices I have to make. We have no other alternatives.”

Revenue from coal, oil and natural gas extraction industries in the state has fallen sharply during the coronavirus pandemic. Oil and gas prices are low and coal production is down as people stay home and use less electricity, causing utility companies to buy less coal to burn in power plants.

Global energy trends caused Wyoming’s economic performance to begin to lag even before the pandemic, according to a recent state report.

With the pandemic, the state could see a $1.5 billion budget shortfall over the two-year budget cycle that began July 1, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.

Minerals tax revenue in the first three months of 2020 were the lowest since the last downturn in oil prices in 2016. Taxable sales in the first quarter fell by 5.7% compared to the same period in 2019 for the first contraction in three years, Gordon said.

The state spending cuts will be difficult, he said.

“We’re talking about some very precious programs and some very valuable people. I don’t look forward to any of this. But these are the times we live in and these are the choices I need to make,” Gordon said.

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