By Ramsey Scott
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Via Wyoming News Exchange
CHEYENNE – Gov. Mark Gordon used his first supplemental budget request to lobby for more money for the state’s wildlife trust fund, a new position to support local governments and energy research.
Gordon’s recommendations carried a $21 million price tag for the next fiscal year. He said he and his staff worked to keep the requests low in anticipation of Monday’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Group report that showed Wyoming’s fiscal outlook had taken a hit due to a drop in oil prices.
Gordon’s biggest request was a $10 million ask for energy research at the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources. The money would fund a pilot program to build a 5-megawatt equivalent coal power plant with the goal that it would capture at least 75 percent of carbon emissions.
The focus on funding energy research was a key platform in both Gordon’s State of the State and inaugural speeches last week. Gordon continues to proclaim he wants Wyoming to be a leader in energy research, especially when it comes to coal. Funding that research, and helping to develop the next wave of technology, he said, will keep Wyoming’s economy viable for future generations.
“Carbon capture technologies will revitalize our coal industry and take us forward as a leader in the energy conversation,” Gordon said Tuesday during a presentation to the Joint Appropriations Committee. “I do believe this is an important technological advance that certainly solves a lot of problems.”
Gordon’s request also doubled up how much money former Gov. Matt Mead requested be put toward the Wyoming Wildlife Natural Resource Trust. Mead had asked for $5 million; Gordon wanted to see that number go up to $10 million.
Gordon, who previously served on the trust’s board, said it was important for the state to help fund the various projects that come out of the trust, including irrigation diversion infrastructure and combating invasive species. Currently, the fund’s account sits at $4 million, and Gordon pointed out that last year the state had $12 million in project requests for the fund.
“This is a really valuable program for Wyoming that has done really good work around the state,” Gordon said. “These are good projects, they meet the needs of the state and they’re highly vetted.”
Gordon also asked for a new engineer position to be funded within the state’s Office of State Lands and Investments at $170,000. The new staff member would help local governments develop capital improvement plans and work on applications for federal grant dollars that are currently going unrequested because of the complicated application process.
“Our smaller towns were not availing themselves of federal funds. And that’s largely because federal programs are incredibly cumbersome,” Gordon said. “For the last several years, federal funds have gone wanting that can be used to build that infrastructure in the state.”
Given the vast amount of work staff at the Office of State Lands is already handling, Gordon said it made sense to create a new position to only focus on providing local governments with the needed expertise to access millions in untapped federal resources.
Rounding out his requests, Gordon asked for $500,000 to help the state fight invasive species and a $400,000 request for the Animal Damage Management Board to help control predators.