By Matt Mead
Governor of Wyoming
As Wyoming residents, we live and raise our families, not in the Capitol, but in the cities, towns and counties across the state. These places are home and Main Street is where we take care of the affairs of our daily lives — raising families, going to work, making time for friends and neighbors — everything that really matters.
When we are traveling around the state, we think about our destination, anticipating what awaits us. Great local spots form a list without end. Each Wyoming town and county has its own flair but every one shares a common characteristic: strength. Strong localities are Wyoming’s edge over other areas not as fortunate and add to the quality of life here, which is second to none.
Since taking office in January 2011, I have advocated for local governments — cities, towns and counties. I want them to continue to thrive. I want them better than ever. I want them ready for the future. I believe government closest to the people is government at its best.
With these things in mind, I am proposing $175 million for cities, towns and counties in the next budget. This is the most I have recommended in my time as governor and the time is right.
Wyoming is in an enviable position. We are financially stable. We can decide what to save and what spending has merit. We can turn around the steep trajectory of budget growth from the past decade (which my budgets have done) and still invest in ways that yield growth and opportunity down the road. Infrastructure is such an investment. Communities are such an investment.
The $175 million will yield benefits. Tangible benefits include newly paved roads, updated bridges and sidewalks, and new emergency response equipment. Intangible benefits are harder to quantify but equally important.
They include first impressions on visitors and on businesses for recruiting; the recognition of an area as a good place to live; and, best of all, the joy of having one’s children able to stay in Wyoming because of more career opportunities.
As I travel the state and pass a jobsite or construction zone, I am encouraged. Better streets and sewers, welcoming parks, and effective schools all improve our communities and enhance quality of life. They mean jobs and prosperity. They indicate economic health and herald a bright future. We can do more with local investment and I have proposed a budget that does more.
There is an old saying: “don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” By putting off “till tomorrow” investment in communities, we narrow future possibilities and are less ready to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. By doing what we can “today,” we maximize Wyoming’s enviable position for years to come.
This is a time to take advantage, not a time to postpone. This is a time for, where we need it, continued construction and building. It is also time for Wyoming to build the interstate highway system of the 21st century, a unified network.
A unified network connects Wyoming people to the internet at higher speeds. Just as the interstate highway system was key to a new era of prosperity and remains vital to this day for citizens and for commerce, a unified network is crucial to prosperity now and looking ahead.
As the interstates do in one way, the unified network does in another. It has the power to facilitate communication, commerce, education and health care, connecting our state to the far reaches of the globe, making opportunities available from anywhere in Wyoming to everywhere across the world. Like better schools, streets and sewer systems, a unified network should be built now.
In 2012, Wyoming was the fourth fastest growing state in the country. This growth is a testament to the strength of our communities, the private sector, and the good jobs provided by our top three industries: energy, tourism and agriculture.
Growth is also a result of other industries beginning to recognize Wyoming’s potential and moving in (think technology and manufacturing). Still it starts and ends locally in cities, towns, and counties.
The State of Wyoming invests money in stocks and bonds across the country and around the globe. But if Wyoming were listed as a stock on the open market, there would be no better investment.
Wyoming has the highest credit rating and $17 billion in savings. We are ranked as the second best run state in the nation, as the state with the number 4 best economic outlook, and as one of the top 5 “Next Boom States.”
My $175 million recommendation is an investment and Wyoming is the stock. I believe in every city, town and county and the value they bring to Wyoming as a whole. I am banking on Wyoming.