June 8, 2020 |
The first of the cuts have started. The Fort Steele Rest Area on I-80 in Carbon County will close as the state slashes services to deal with what the governor said Thursday is the largest decline of revenue Wyoming’s history.
At a news conference announcing the plan, Governor Mark Gordon said that economic impacts on the energy industry mean that cuts to state services and jobs will be necessary and painful.
Including Fort Steele, ten rest areas will close in all. Others are located near Chugwater, Greybull, Guernsey, Moorcroft, Sundance, Star Valley and Upton. The closures are part of a multi-phase plan to cut state spending.
WYDOT was the first agency budget to go under the microscope since state economists issued a grim financial report late last month. The CREG forecast detailed losses in state revenue of more than $1 billion over the next two years. The steep decline is largely the result of an expected 30 percent drop in sales taxes. Mineral royalties will also dry up, according to the report.
Governor Gordon said with WYDOT services on the chopping block, towns and counties may have to pick up some of the resulting slack.
The rest area closures will save over $197,000 through September 30th, and $800,000 a year after that.
WYDOT won’t be the only agency to feel the pain. Layoffs and furloughs will hit every department, starting after July 1st. The governor said one-fifth, or 20 percent, of the state budget needs to be slashed.
In a memo to state employees, the governor spelled out the reasons. Coal revenues are down 25 percent and will continue to decline. Projected oil revenues have dropped 50 percent in three months. Gas is selling at 1970 levels with no new production in sight. The governor offered more details during Thursday’s news conference.
The decline is the largest in state history, and comes after another sharp decline two years ago. The governor indicated that he is looking at recovering some through other revenue sources, including the elimination of any tax exemptions that may be on the books. The Wyoming Legislature will meet in special session later this month.
In this April 9th 2020 file photo taken by Cali O’Hare/Bigfoot 99, the Ft. Steele rest area is visible on the western side of the North Platte River.