As Governor Mark Gordon starts to get settled into the governor’s mansion a week and half into his term, he braved the ultimate press conference Friday, taking multiple questions at the Wyoming Press Association’s winter conference in Cheyenne, with nearly every newspaper in the state attending.
The discussion touched on multiple topics, including energy, education funding, environmental issues, gun-free zones and his approach to taxes.
Gordon began his address by re-affirming his commitment to small communities throughout Wyoming.
“We need to make sure Wyoming provides better opportunities and resources for each one of our communities. What are the things we can do for Lusk or for Newcastle? Obviously, we have some money. Our returns and our revenues are a little bit challenged, we all know about that. But what can we do beyond that?” Gordon asked. “We have professional people that can help those communities stand up. There are applications to rural development…I want to have a professional engineer who can go into a town like Manderson and say you need a new sewer system. How can we make that sewer system a reality? How can we provide state resources to help you get that application done so we can get more money to our communities?”
The address’s largest focus was on energey management in Wyoming. The state has a premiere opportunity to provide leadership nationwide, according to Gordon.
“If you look at the Paris Climate Accord, another portion of the accord says that we really have to not only reduce our carbon admissions, we have to actually decrease our carbon admissions,” Gordon said. “Here’s a couple things we can do: Carbon capture and sequestration, so it’s already in that piece. We could dump iron filings in the ocean to get an algae bloom, that might help. We can put giant vacuum cleaners on buildings to take out particulates of molecules of CO2, or we can launch something into space. None of those seem as practical to me as investing in the carbon capture point, and that’s where Wyoming can take the lead.”
Economic Diversification and development remains a focus at the governorship level, Gordon said, but he plans to approach the area in a way distinct from his predecessor.
“I want to look at what the business council does, try to figure out better ways to make sure that’s a more efficient process, less of a grant making enterprise, but something that will allow for businesses to come into the state, having a simple and easier time getting permitting done for them as well as (providing) local infrastructure so we can make sure those businesses have a chance to go forward,” he told the convention.
Gordon did not shy away from his commitment to transparency Friday afternoon.
“This morning I said we will make available salaries for public employees, but as we go forward we will talk about public records requests, we will talk about a better budgeting session. I would like to engage with you on how we will make this system work,” Gordon said. “…I would like to be the most transparent state in the union, both in the point of view of how we spend our money, but also how we do our budgeting process going forward.”
After accepting questions, Gordon first took questions on state management of its wildlife population and said his priority is to keep control of its wildlife population in Wyoming.
“I think just as an overarching concept, I think it’s important that Wyoming manage its own wildlife population, and that is something this administration will pursue,” Gordon said.
The state has limited resources when it comes to battling drugs and addiction, Gordon said in answer to another question, so it is crucial the state partners with local communities.
“From my side, I think the state needs to partner with local communities, We need to do a better job partnering with the groups (already doing that work),” he said. “I am convinced that the opioids is a big issue. I am convinced that meth is a bigger issue…that’s being felt differently in each community and that’s why we need to work with our local communities and local community providers to do a better job.”
Gordon said he supports the wind production tax in place but does not seek to raise it. Wyoming is the only state which has a wind production tax on the books.
“I think it’s appropriate to have that tax in place, I don’t think we need to raise it, but I think one of the most important things for Wyoming going forward is understanding we have all our resources and they should all play a role in our state going forward,” Gordon said.
Upon receiving a question on Senate File 74, which would eliminate gun free zones in public venues, Gordon stated his support for the bill.
“I will sign it, it’s what I said in the campaign,” Gordon said.
Gordon said he will not seek to raise taxes to fund schools in the state but instead will look for alternative ways to give education necessary funding in the state.
“A portion of how to fund schools is through property taxes, that should be part of the equation we talk about. But I don’t think we need to raise taxes until we really explore what the opportunities are,” Gordon said.
One of those opportunities is working with school districts to see what money they can save out of their budget.
“We need to do more for coal, we need to do more for our fossil industries and we can do that responsibly. We need to see continued growth in those trust funds so they can provide more income as they go on,” Gordon said. “I want to work with districts on a district level, I know there are places we can find some savings that will help. None of this solves the problem, but all of
it is stuff we can do on the way to find a permanent solution.”
By Ryan Fitzmaurice