CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon is expected to make a public announcement of further cuts to the state’s budget on Thursday, June 4 which could lead to some state employees losing their jobs, seeing furloughs or experiencing reductions in their salaries or other benefits as the state looks to eliminate programs.
Gordon sent a notice via email to all state employees on Thursday to let them know of the budget cuts.
“Wyoming depends on energy production to fund its govermnent and has for decades,” Gordon said in a notice from his office. “But our coal revenues are down 25 percent and will continue to decline. Projected oil revenues have dropped more than 50 percent in three months. Gas is selling for 1970-level prices and there is no new production.”
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“Compounding this, sales tax revenues (also largely driven by mineral development) are in steep decline.”
In the notice, Gordon notes that data used to project revenue shortfalls is preliminary. The state’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Group prepared a revision to Wyoming’s revenue forecast for the five fiscal years 2020-2024 in May.
Under all scenarios considered by CREG in putting the May report together, the state can expect to see significant revenue decreases including for the General Fund, the Budget Reserve Account, the School Foundation Program Account and the School Capital Construction Account.
Projections were revised such that the General Fund would see between $783.6 million and $1.37 billion less between fiscal year 2020 and 2022 than what was forecast in January. Other accounts were revised with drastic revisions to their porjections.
The May report revised the base revenue forecast CREG provided in a January report and also provided scenarios in which the state would experience a lesser and greater economic downturn.
Decreases to the forecast from the January report for the General Fund (GF), the Budget Reserve Account (BRA), the School Foundation Program Account (SFP) and the School Capital Construction Account (SCCA) for fiscal years 2020-2022 are shown in the following table (note that the figures in parentheses indicate decreases in millions of dollars):
The May report explains that CREG added the low and high forecasts “given the substantial uncertainty surrounding both the severity and duration of the economic impacts attributable to the recent oil price war, economic
impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency, and subsequent federal fiscal and monetary policy and state fiscal policy responses to the public health emergency.”
“The low end forecast could be characterized as a projection of state revenues under a more severe downturn, a significantly delayed rebound of economic activity, or perhaps intermittent resurgence of the
virus and extended, even rolling, impacts on economic activity,” CREG explains. “The high end forecast could be characterized as a projection of state revenues under a less severe downturn or a quicker economic rebound. Despite federal and state fiscal policy actions and federal monetary measures, which have been swift and unprecedented, the underlying economic fallout related to both the recent oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia as well as the demand destruction presented since the spread of COVID-19 in the United States are severe.”
Gordon said in the notice sent to state employees that while forecast data is preliminary and unclear, “there can be no doubt we will see a continuing steep decline.”
“In any event, our approach to the significant cuts we will have to make must be done strategically, with purpose, and in a manner that assures Wyoming can recover rapidly,” he added.
Gordon’s office said in the notice that the state has already imposed a hiring freeze and limits on large contracts but that further action will be needed.
“We are in uncharted territory,” Gordon said in the notice. “We have just experienced the largest loss of income in our history just four years after our second largest loss of income.”
“But, even if every state employee was let go, or if we closed the prisons, eliminated all money going to the courts, and stopped funding persons with disabilities, we would still run out of funds at the end of the biennium.”
The notice adds that the next step in plans to reduce the budget is for state agency directors “to identify and explain programs to eliminate by July 1, along with the consequences of those proposals.”
“These cuts will likely lead to some employees losing their jobs,” the notice adds. “[Gordon] also asked agencies to consider salary reductions, furloughs, reductions in benefits and other options.”
The notice adds that the spending reductions will be coordinated with the Wyoming Legislature.
Once state agency directors have recommended programs which can be considered for elimination, “the subsequent step involves preparing for the unknown, with each agency building flexible approaches that are responsive to updated revenue forecasts that will be issued by the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group (CREG) in July and October.”
The notice does not state the total amount of budget cuts that will be required. Gordon’s office says the governor is committed to working with the legislature “to look for other ways to fund an appropriate level of government services, including the short-term use of the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account (LSRA), the Special Investment and Projects Account (SIPA), or revenue enhancements, since merely cutting services will not be enough to address the scope of the shortfall.”
NOTE: The governor’s notice sent to state employees was provided to Cap City by an individual wishing to remain anonymous.
The Latest Statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health:
What to do if you are feeling sick: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department says that people who are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms should contact their primary physician.
If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.
Officials ask that you please do not self-report to the Emergency Room. Persons experiencing problems breathing should call 9-11.
For general inquiries and non-symptom related questions about COVID-19, please contact the Casper-Natrona County Health Department via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Practice Social Distancing by putting distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Stay home if you’re sick
- Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
A list of area closures attributed to COVID-19 are available here.