Facing a “flattening out” of revenue sources in the wake of a scourge of summer wildfires and continued low domestic natural gas prices, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead on Friday submitted a supplemental 2013-14 state budget with a 6% annual reduction in the state’s general fund spending.

Mead submitted his proposal to the state legislature, noting it included spending cuts and a reduction in the size of state government, along with continued investment in “important one-time projects.”

Mead spoke in pragmatic terms and called his proposal a continuation of Wyoming’s “history of fiscal conservatism,” but he insisted that the austerity need not deny the state “a bright future.”

Unlike other budget messages earlier this year, Mead did not dwell on the continuing low wholesale gas prices that affect Wyoming’s revenues very directly.

In the case of the failed High Plains coal gasification project that had more than $50 million allocated to it by the Wyoming legislature four years ago, Mead proposed taking $40 million of budgeted but unspent funds for the project and having the legislature redirect the monies to an engineering building renovation fund at the University of Wyoming.

“Energy, the environment and our economy are inseparable,” said Mead, noting that it is impossible to have any one of them to the exclusion of the others. He said it was ill-conceived to conclude that a “thriving energy industry” means “dirty water, polluted skies and a loss of natural beauty.”

Mead called his state a model for this kind of balance in reclaiming former coal mining lands as grasslands with a prairie ecosystem, and maintaining oil and natural gas production in Sublette County without disrupting deer, elk and antelope. He alluded to his developing energy/environmental strategy that will allow Wyoming to lead the nation in an approach that supports “a strong energy industry, thriving environment, and sound economy (see Daily GPI, Nov. 16).”

Mead said he plans to sponsor a series of meetings in early December to gain feedback on the draft strategy, which his Policy Director Shawn Reese told NGI in mid-November would include examining the potential development of liquefied natural gas production for use in oil/gas fields.

“Work will continue [on the strategy] with the goal of developing a final framework by the end of December,” Mead said.

Mead also told the legislature in his budget proposal that Wyoming will continue to work with other states in promoting the manufacture of more natural gas vehicles (NGV) for use in government fleets. “Wyoming identified 283 vehicles this biennium that would be amenable to NGVs or bi-fuel replacements.”

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