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Wyoming governor seeks another $500M in cuts to state budget

November 17, 2020 GMT

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon will ask lawmakers to slash $500 million from the state budget in response to weak revenue from the coal, oil and natural gas industries.

The proposed cuts would lay off 62 state employees and eliminate 44 vacant positions, Gordon said in a news conference announcing his regular supplemental budget Monday.

The supplemental budget, approved in the in-between year of Wyoming’s two-year budget cycle, used to be a chance for state agency directors to score extra funding.

Not this year. Wyoming has been facing a $400 million shortfall even after Gordon cut 10% from state agencies last summer.

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The new proposed cuts would bring the total agency reduction to about 15%.

In all, the cuts would further reduce the state’s total, two-year budget from $3.3 billion, as approved in March, to $2.4 billion, Gordon said.

“Taken together, they are going to impact the Wyoming people, they are going to impact Wyoming communities,” Gordon said.

Wyoming will continue to dip into state savings to cover a $300 million shortfall in state public education funding, Gordon said.

Specific cuts include $135 million from the state Department of Health. Gordon, a Republican, said he sought to avoid more steep cuts for Wyoming’s law enforcement and public safety agencies, attorney general, public defender and district attorneys.

Wyoming’s revenue has dropped sharply during the coronavirus pandemic and low global oil prices, which have all but stopped oil exploration and development in the state. Wyoming’s coal and gas industries were struggling even before the downturn.

The supplemental budget faces a long road in the months ahead, with changes likely in the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee and the full Legislature after that.

“It’s time we really face up to these facts. Without improvements to our revenue picture, these cuts will likely be permanent,” Gordon said.