Gov. Matt Mead told a gathering of public officials Monday in Greybull that his budget request for the new biennium includes nearly $170 million for local government, which includes cities, towns and counties across the state of Wyoming.
Mead said in an interview after his meeting with the commissioners and mayors of Big Horn County that his administration has a number of reasons for putting forth the $170 million figure, which he says represents a boost from the previous budget.
“One, we are very supportive of local governments and recognize that we have good talent in local governments,” he said. “Two, this is where the jobs are, where people live, at the local level. Three, there are great infrastructure needs around the state at the local level. Four, we can build infrastructure more cheaply now than we could during other times. And five, if we don’t maintain our infrastructure, we aren’t being fiscally responsible.
“Infrastructure is the foundation of economic development. We can’t ask businesses to stay here, or recruit new businesses, if we don’t have the infrastructure taken care of.”
Lawmakers will gather in Cheyenne next month to consider the governor’s request, and he said he believes there’s “a fair chance” they will be supportive, noting, “We’ve been fairly conservative with the budget. We’ve trimmed the standard budget of the state government, which has more than doubled in the last decade, while leaving some discretionary money on the table for the Legislature. And we put money into savings — we wanted to do that.”
Mead said transportation and connectivity are among the key issues he’s hearing from constituents as he travels the state. The local officials with whom he met, in particular, wanted to talk transportation.
“They recognize you have to have infrastructure in place, and this is a good time to do that,” he said. “People are concerned with highway funding. How do we fund our highways? Being a large but rural state, it’s recognized that for recreation, commerce and education, you must have a sound road system.”
Mead said the state of the Wyoming economy is improving — the unemployment rate has dropped more than a percentage point since he took office — and that he has committed a great deal of time during the past year working on the BLM’s Resource Management Plan.
“One of the opportunities for the Big Horn Basin is for enhanced oil recovery through the injection of carbon dioxide,” said Mead. “There are a number of benefits — to be able to go to sites where we know there is already oil, where we can dump carbon dioxide in there, and produce oil.”
Mead said an estimated 800 million to 1.2 billion barrels of oil could be extracted from the Big Horn Basin with the carbon dioxide injection approach. “And it would also be a way to use carbon dioxide — we have sources of CO2 that we’re trying to figure out what to do with,” he said.
Mead is just weeks from completing his first year in office. He was elected having never been in politics — but rather with a background in law and ranching. What the past year has taught him, he said, is that “We’re lucky to live in Wyoming.
“My perspective is gained by meetings with governors from all around the country,” he said. “We are very fortunate, compared to most other states, not only in resources but in the potential that we have. And in our people, who want to help you make the right decisions … and the state to do well.”
By: Nathan O