The congressionally mandated budget cuts called sequestration continue to have an impact on Wyoming. And while the state’s Republican lawmakers say those cuts aren’t having as big of an impact as predicted by Democrats, Matt Laslo reports from Washington that the delegation still isn’t happy with the sequester.
Top Wyoming lawmakers have agreed to put off talks of budget cuts.
This year, state agencies cut an average of 6.5 percent from their budgets to meet a shortfall. Then lawmakers announced plans to require agencies to propose another round of 6-percent cuts during summer committee hearings.
But Governor Matt Mead said he would not encourage agencies to cooperate. He says with almost $800 million coming in from capital gains and interest on investments, cuts should be unnecessary.
Gov. Matt Mead says it appears likely that state agencies won't face more spending cuts in the two-year budget cycle that begins next year.
Mead says he's informed state lawmakers that state agencies won't honor lawmakers' request to present proposed spending cuts of up to 6 percent at legislative committee hearings this summer.
Most state agencies saw budget cuts averaging 6.5 percent in the supplemental budget that state government approved early this year. Mead says state revenues are improving and that more cuts probably won't be necessary.
The Wyoming Military Department is planning to temporarily trim the hours of more than 430 employees due to federal budget cuts. The furloughs would begin at the end of April and extend until the end of September. Colonel Tammy Maas says the reduction in hours will impact their day to day operations, but shouldn’t impact necessary missions.
With federal departments already feeling the heat since across-the-board budget cuts took effect March 1st, Wyoming US Senator Mike Enzi says the mandatory cuts—known as the sequester—don’t go far enough.
The sequester, or automatic budget reduction across almost all federal programs, was meant to be an incentive for congress to reach an agreement on how to scale back the nation’s deficit. But the parties could not come to an agreement on how to achieve this and so now, those such as Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk are looking at cutting back on operations.
Cheyenne Regional Airport could lose its air tower as a result of the federal sequester. The Federal Aviation Administration is losing funding for 100 towers nationwide, each of which serve airports with a limited number of flights.
David Haring is director of aviation at the airport. He says the airport will continue to operate… but losing the air tower is a big deal, because it’s an important safety tool.
March 1st a series of automatic cuts to federal spending—called the sequester—went into effect. Education is one of the areas Wyoming will feel the cuts most acutely. A White House report says the state will lose millions of dollars in school funding.
Jim Rose, interim director of the Wyoming Department of Education, says a 5% cut to the federal education budget would mean special needs students would get less funding.
In early 2013 the state legislature will discuss cutting the state budget. While some say only minimal cuts are needed, others are not so sure. State Senator Tony Ross says the so-called fiscal cliff could add to the loss of federal money the state is already dealing with, starting with the loss of abandoned mine land money last fall.
“As a result of the loss of AML funds or there is even talks that there may be a push to cut back on federal mineral royalties. If they do something like that it effects us here in a very big way.”
The Wyoming library system has been working hard to keep up with residents’ needs in the digital age, but they might have some trouble if the legislature approves sweeping budget cuts in January. Wyoming Public Radio’s Rebecca Martinez spoke with Wyoming State Librarian Lesley Boughton about it. Boughton says she says the Wyoming library system works well because of how it was created.
Wyoming got some good news from the latest Consensus Revenue Estimating Group report, but it won’t be enough to stop budget cuts from occurring. CREG reports that state revenue should increase by $85 million, mainly from projected Sales and Use tax revenue.
But Governor Matt Mead says that will not be enough to keep him from suggesting eight-percent budget cuts to the legislature.
CREG Co-Chairman Bill Mai says the group is cautious about a downturn in the coal industry, but they remain hopeful about other energy prices.
Like a lot of state agencies, Wyoming State Parks and Historic Sites will likely need to find a way to make up revenues lost from proposed budget cuts. Administrator Dominic Bravo says they are leery about raising fees, but are looking at some other options. "We’re going to try to figure out through partnerships, try to find alternative funding, of course corporate relationships, anything we can to make sure we are doing our best job to serve our customers and visitors. Whatever we can to still meet our mission. It’s not easy." Bravo says they’ve been able to generate more revenue for S
The number of jobs Alpha Natural Resources plans to cut in Wyoming's Powder River Basin remains unclear after the coal giant said it plans to cut production by 16 million tons.
About 40 percent of Alpha's production cuts will come from high-cost eastern mines while about half will occur in the Powder River Basin. The company is eliminating 1,200 jobs companywide, laying off 400 workers immediately by closing mines in Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
But, the company says most of the displaced workers may eventually be rehired.
Governor Matt Mead says he is hopeful that the eight percent budget cuts he requested from state government agencies may not have to happen. But the governor says he is still considering the cuts, despite signs that the state revenue picture may be improving.
If Governor Matt Mead’s eight percent budget cuts go through, Wyoming’s state parks would have to make significant cuts in services and staffing. Milward Simpson is the Director of the Department of Parks, Historic Sites and Trails, and he says every state park would be affected.
"We’ll be doing less hiring if these budget cuts come to pass. We’re also going to eliminate a currently vacant position at Hotsprings State Park, and we’re going to be reducing all of our supply and operations and maintenance budgets across the board, around the state," Simpson says.
The Game and Fish Department could see a 10-million-dollar budget shortfall by 2014, largely because it has been selling fewer hunting and fishing licenses. Licenses account for 46-percent of the agency’s income.
Game and Fish will hold a meeting Thursday/tomorrow night in Cheyenne to discuss its fiscal future. Spokesperson Mark Konishi says the public will have a chance to weigh in on possible alternative funding sources for the future.
A group called Protection and Advocacy, which advocates for people with disabilities, has sent a letter to Wyoming, expressing concern over potential budget cuts for developmental disabilities.
Gov. Matt Mead has called for all agencies to prepare for 8 percent budget cuts. The Department of Health has not yet specified what it would cut, but Protection and Advocacy CEO Jeanne Thobro says she’s concerned that Wyomingites with developmental disabilities could lose vital services.
Despite concern about the Wyoming economy, a new report from the state economic analysis division actually shows that things have greatly improved in the last year. Jim Robinson, a Senior Economist with the division, notes that sales tax numbers are up about 12 percent from a year ago; oil and gas jobs have increased and despite lower than expected gas prices, rig counts are virtually the same as 2011.
All state agencies have submitted their proposed budget cuts and now it’s up to Gov. Matt Mead and the Wyoming Legislature to develop a plan about how they would go about reducing state agency budgets if revenues fall below projections next year.
The University of Wyoming says it will have to cut positions as part of its eight-percent budget cut sent to Gov. Matt Mead this week.
The governor requested the proposed cuts because of concerns about a reduction in revenue due to falling gas prices. They are for the budget that begins in July of 2013. University Spokesman Chad Baldwin says with 75 percent of U-W’s budget tied to salaries, he says they have no choice but to cut some positions.
The University of Wyoming is joining other state agencies in trying to determine how it will trim eight percent from its budget. U-W Provost Myron Allen says an eight percent cut most certainly means that some positions will have to be eliminated. However, Allen says it’s still too early to say if U-W will have to eliminate degree programs.
“I’d prefer not to implement across the board reductions, so there probably be some programs that are hit a lot harder than others. But whether we will have to eliminate some programs, I don’t know yet.”
Wyoming Governor Matt Mead says all state agencies should be prepared to cut budgets by eight percent next year. Falling natural gas prices are to blame. Wyoming House Appropriations Chairman Rosie Berger said it’s due to Wyoming having a minerals based economy. When natural gas prices drop, the state loses millions. Berger said the good news is that agency heads have awhile to prepare.
The Wyoming House and Senate have begun discussing the 3-point-2 billion dollar state budget. It will cover a biennium, or the next two fiscal years. House Appropriations Chairman Rosie Berger says they are trying to pass a flat budget this year and limit future spending. Senate Appropriations Chairman Phil Nicholas says agencies will be asked to reduce their budgets by four percent in the second year of the biennium and another four percent in the following year.
The University of Wyoming says reductions in staffing and student support are among the scenarios they are considering if the legislature decides to cut its budget this year.
U-W and other state agencies have been asked to explain what reductions of two, five and eight percent would mean to their budgets. At the high end, U-W President Tom Buchanan says the cuts would be severe. In the two percent scenario, Buchanan says reductions not connected to academics would be made. But he admits that will change if the cuts are more than that.
Governor Matt Mead presented his budget to the Joint Appropriations Committee and re-asserted his position that the state does not need to hurry to cut budgets.
Senate JAC Chairman Phil Nicholas has suggested cuts of five to eight percent are needed, so that the state can start setting aside money for future needs. Governor Mead says they should decide what government services are critical and determine what money the state would need to fund those services.
Governor Matt Mead is telling state agencies to prepare for budget cuts. The governor claims that Wyoming’s future revenues are expected to flatten out or even decrease in the next few years. Mead says the budget he’s preparing for next two years takes that prediction into account.
“The fact is over the last decade our spending on the standard budget has more than doubled," the governor said. "Over that period of time, the state of Wyoming has done some tremendous things, but we can’t continue to double it every tenyears.”
Top Wyoming lawmakers are directing state agencies to brace for possible budget cuts.
Republican Sen. Phil Nicholas, of Laramie, and Republican Rep. Rosie Berger, of Big Horn, are co-chairmen of the Joint Appropriations Committee. They wrote a letter telling state budget officials that agencies should be prepared for cuts ranging up to 8 percent in the coming two-year budget cycle.