In his State of the State message, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead focused on the state’s continued revenue shortfall, particularly the shortfall in K-12 education.
The School Foundation Program will face a $1.5 billion deficit over the next six years, not including school maintenance or facilities. Last year, Mead asked to form an education taskforce with input from legislators, teachers, students, and the public to find solutions for funding, and in his State of the State he renewed that request.
“As I did last year, I again ask that we have a task force to address school funding because a year has gone by and things have not gotten better. We cannot wait another year to act,” the governor said.
Mead said he wanted some kind of plan for reductions by the end of this session and increased dialogue around education funding. He mentioned how a comment period for the latest funding solutions lasted only a week, yet the legislature received around 600 comments.
Mead also said Speaker of the House Steve Harshman could form a super committee to address school funding.
In an effort to help the revenue picture, he asked the legislature to consider encouraging increased research and development in carbon capture and new uses for CO2.
Currently, the state relies heavily on the revenue that comes from taxes on the energy industry, and since the downturn in the industry the state’s revenues have come up short.
Mead said the state has taken steps to build an industry around carbon capture, including construction on the Integrated Test Center in Gillette, collaboration with the XPrize for carbon capture, and proposals for an energy related industrial park.
“Projects like these not only help Wyoming’s number one industry minerals, especially coal, they foster diversification. I hope you consider a bill that provides for further implementation of the initiatives in the energy strategy,” he said.
Governor Mead also emphasized investments in the state’s firearms industry, outdoor recreation, and agriculture as part of a plan to diversify and strengthen the state’s revenue.