Wyo4News Staff, [email protected]
CHEYENNE, WYOMING (August 26, 2020) — Governor Mark Gordon has finalized the first round of state budget cuts totaling more than $250 million, with an additional $80 million in cuts to the maintenance of state buildings and those at the university and community colleges.
The 10% cuts to state agencies, boards, and commissions will have significant effects on Wyoming communities and citizens, as the cuts will impact important services that people depend on and will reduce general fund dollars that enter the private sector.
The Department of Health, with the state’s largest budget, will see a 9% cut totaling approximately $90 million. Department of Health programs facing cuts and elimination include those that serve senior citizens, disabled individuals, and those with very low incomes.
Among the cuts are the phased elimination of the Wyoming Home Services program, an Aging Division program that provides services to individuals who are at risk of premature institutionalization; elimination of some immunization funding for children; and a reduction in funding for early childhood developmental and educational programs.
In a press release from the Wyoming Department of Health, Director Michael Ceballos said, “We wish we did not have to take these actions. It’s tough to announce these budget reductions, but with the obvious decline in state revenues, the need to reduce our budget simply can’t be ignored.”
The University of Wyoming and the state’s community colleges had their budgets cut by 10% as well. As the Boards of Trustees implement those cuts and address other revenue shortfalls, program cuts have already occurred and more are likely.
These cuts will mean reduced higher education options for Wyoming students. One program cut was to Wyoming Works, an initiative the Governor supported to help enhance the state’s workforce.
The Department of Family Services is eliminating vacant positions in the state office and field offices across the state, including at the Boys School in Worland and the Girls School in Sheridan. Additionally, this means fewer people to work on foster care and child protection. DFS cuts also mean the defunding of the Community Juvenile Services Boards, which are county-based diversion programs to prevent juvenile incarceration, and the burial program, which pays up to $500 to funeral homes for burial expenses for the indigent.
The Department of Corrections will also see significant cuts to programs that keep the public safe. Parole agents will now be required to supervise additional offenders, and programs that help inmates re-enter Wyoming communities and not re-offend will see reductions in funding.
“These cuts that we have made are devastating, but necessary given the state’s fiscal picture,” Governor Gordon said.
“A third of our revenue has dried up since the beginning of the year. I am Constitutionally required to balance the budget. Our state cannot deficit spend the way the Federal Government can. Just to manage this crisis, difficult decisions had to be made.”
“None of them are easy, nor are they designed to highlight critical programs for political effect,” the Governor continued.
“These are the types of cuts we will continue to have to make to get our budget in balance. These hurt, and what comes next hurts more. I recognize the impact these cuts will have on Wyoming families and I am truly saddened that we had to make them.”
The Department of Health, Corrections, Family Services, the University of Wyoming, and the community colleges make up two-thirds of the state’s general fund budget.
The Governor continues to consider options for addressing the remaining $500 million shortfalls, an amount just slightly larger than the entire contribution from the State to the University of Wyoming.
State agencies have already developed proposals on further cuts to services, and the Governor is working with legislators on other options, all of which require legislative action.
On top of these cuts, the Governor has put in place furloughs for higher-paid state employees and is consolidating human resources across government.
Kevin Hibbard of the Budget Department said that over 270 positions have been reduced, in a combination of full-time and part-time positions. Hibbard said that most of the reductions come to full-time positions.
Additional details on each agency’s budget cuts are now posted on the Budget Division’s website here.