To cap off the 61st Legislature Governor Matt Mead thanked both the Wyoming Senate and House of Representatives for a very productive session. Governor Mead said, together, the branches of government tackled very important issues, most importantly passing a balanced budget that makes important investments.
In speeches before lawmakers Governor Mead said that this session resulted in improvements that make Wyoming stronger. "When we started this session with my State of the State Address, I said clearly that the state of the state is very strong," Governor Mead said. He said we continue to build a stronger state, "We look at education, we look at connectivity, we have a balanced budget and we have savings. This is not just my opinion but those looking at Wyoming from outside recognize it as well." Governor Mead said this is why Wyoming is recognized as the Best Run State in the country and the state with the best tax structure and one of the best places to do business.
The top issues Governor Mead pointed to as successes for this session include investments in cities, towns and counties, enhanced highway funding, redistricting, a plan to allow Wyoming to manage wolves, a move to assert state primacy in the regulation of greenhouse gases, funding for a long-term water solution for people outside the town of Pavillion, and improved workplace safety.
Governor Mead did tell lawmakers that there is hard work ahead and Wyoming will likely have to do more belt-tightening. The Legislature called state agencies to prepare 4% cuts next year. Governor Mead said this is partly due to declining revenue from natural gas, but also because he believes Congress needs to stop spending so much money. "We hope they do and, if they do, it will mean less money for the states. That will be cause for tightening our belts even further," Governor Mead said.
Looking ahead Governor Mead said he will be working with legislators to find a permanent source of funding for Wyoming highways, for improvements to the state's tax structure and ways to improve health care and reduce costs. With health care, Governor Mead pointed out that this budget includes $560 million dollars in state dollars for Medicaid, which is up from $80 million ten years ago. This shows the level to which Wyoming is already involved in health care and changes are needed. "If you ask legislators, I think they too are disappointed in the amount we are spending on health care and they too are looking for solutions, but collectively we have not found them and I think one of the things we can tackle in the next year is providing some possible solutions to the Legislature," Governor Mead said.
Governor Mead reiterated that Wyoming has an opportunity to diversify the economy to include more of a technology sector. He said the funding available now allows Wyoming to provide incentives to data centers and other technology companies while ensuring that any company that comes here can stand on its own.