Mead highlighted accomplishments over nearly two terms as governor, including how by every measure Wyoming state government is smaller than when he took office.
“This is remarkable, because as you know governments tend to grow, not shrink. Wyoming has bucked the trend,” Mead said.
Yet he urged lawmakers not to neglect certain building projects and economic diversification efforts while keeping an open mind about reasonable ways to increase revenue, particularly for education.
“As I’ve said before and will say today, investment in Wyoming is a great investment, and this body has invested in Wyoming,” Mead said.
His remarks coincided with the start of a four-week legislative session devoted primarily to crafting a two-year budget. Lawmakers’ biggest challenge will be what to do about a looming, $850 million budget shortfall amid declining demand for coal and weak prices for oil and natural gas.
Fossil fuels provide 70 percent of Wyoming’s revenue. Mead has promoted efforts to invest more in recruiting business and technology, including a panel that recommends more investment in commercial air service, workforce training, research and innovation, and internet speed.
Mead acknowledged some are skeptical about the recommendations.
“We must listen to both camps. But I reject the notion that Wyoming is incapable of determining its own destiny, that our future will only be determined by commodity prices or other exterior forces,” Mead said.
At the same time, Mead pointed out that fossil-fuel revenue is not quite as bad as it’s been, with the latest forecast predicting $140 million more revenue than the previous one in October.
“With investments in our future and opportunities on the horizon, the state of our state is strong,” Mead said.