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(COMMENTARY) Gov. Gordon’s 2025-26 Budget: Unaffordable and unsustainable

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Dear Cheyenne,

In late 2023, Gov. Mark Gordon submitted his state budget.

The governor described his budget as  “disciplined,” “business like,” “forward-thinking,” “fiscally conservative,” “realistic,” “practical,” “balanced,” “prudent,” “sustainable,” and “living within our means.”  

The Wyoming Freedom Caucus has thoroughly reviewed the governor’s budget and would ourselves describe it as unaffordable and unsustainable.

This is the largest budget in the history of Wyoming, boasting record spending and revenue. It is more than 33% larger than the budget the governor inherited when he took office in 2019 ($8.1 billion then, ~$10.8 billion today.) Have you seen your household income increase 33% over the last five years? 

This budget constitutes a 12% increase over what the governor recommended in the last budget. Have you seen your household income increase 12% over the last two years? 

If the governor’s budget is approved, state employees will have seen a 30% increase in total compensation from the 2020-21 budget. How many of you have seen your total compensation packages increase 30% in the last five years? 

The budget department of the Legislative Service Office has determined that maintaining the same level of services as included in the previous state budgets would require a new budget of $8.7 billion.  Nevertheless, the governor says that his $10.8 billion budget is based on “need.” 

This constitutes a growth of government of $2.1 billion. In other words, the governor’s frugal, fiscally conservative and practical budget is 24% more than what the LSO says is needed to provide the same level of service as provided in past years.

How does one increase a budget 33% in just five years? Among the “prudent” and “practical” recommendations from the governor in this budget:

  • $166 million in increased personnel costs (salaries, health insurance, pension contributions) for the existing 6,900 state employees (that equates to ~$12,000 each year for each employee in increased salary, health insurance coverage and pension contributions)
  • $21.8 million for a new gun/firing range
  • $10 million in “contingency”
  • $38 million for “affordable housing” 
  • $7.5 million to build a new helibase

This is only a partial list of the over 700 requests the governor is making to increase this budget $2.1 billion beyond what the LSO says is required to operate state government.

Can the governor really claim his budget is “frugal,” “fiscally conservative,” “practical,” “prudent?”

Meanwhile, under Gov. Gordon’s leadership, Wyoming has seen median household income decrease 2% from 2018-2022, while state employee personnel costs have increased in excess of 30%.

The governor’s Wyoming Business Council has spent more than $370 million over the last 10 years with the intention of expanding and diversifying our economy and growing the private sector. Yet, during that same 10-year period, private sector real GDP has decreased $2.4 billion.

Sometimes our colleagues give the Wyoming Freedom Caucus more credit than we deserve. To pass or stop anything during this upcoming legislative session, 32 votes are needed. In other words, the conservatives in the House do not have enough votes to derail any of the big spending ambitions of Cheyenne’s insider class. That does not mean, though, that we will not try our best to stop the tsunami of unaffordable and unsustainable spending increases they will try to enact.

Reps. John Bear (HD 31), Scott Heiner (HD 18), Ben Hornok (HD 42), and Tony Locke (HD 35)


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