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Wyoming’s budget basics
According to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), Wyoming’s total expenditures in fiscal year (FY) 2020 were $4.7 billion, including general funds, other state funds, bonds, and federal funds. NASBO reported that total expenditures across all states in FY 2020 were $2.3 trillion, ranging from $4.7 billion in Wyoming to $337.7 billion in California.
Each state allocates spending and taxes differently among different levels of governments, and local governments often administer programs with state funds, so combined state and local government data show a more complete picture of individual benefits and contributions when comparing states.
Per the US Census Bureau, Wyoming’s combined state and local direct general expenditures were $8.8 billion in FY 2019 (the most recent year census data were available), or $15,107 per capita. (Census data exclude “business-like” activities such as utilities and transfers between state and local governments.) National per capita direct general expenditures were $10,161.
Wyoming’s largest spending areas per capita were health and hospitals ($2,971) and elementary and secondary education ($2,955). The Census Bureau includes most Medicaid spending in public welfare but also allocates some of it to public hospitals. Per capita spending is useful for state comparisons but is an incomplete metric because it doesn’t provide any information about a state’s demographics, policy decisions, administrative procedures, or residents’ choices.
Wyoming’s combined state and local general revenues were $8.8 billion in FY 2019, or $15,110 per capita. National per capita general revenues were $10,563. Wyoming does not levy a corporate income tax or individual income tax. After federal transfers, Wyoming’s largest sources of per capita revenue were charges ($3,436), such as state university tuition and highway tolls, and property taxes ($2,057). Wyoming also collects a relatively large amount of revenue from severance taxes, which are taxes on the extraction of natural resources such as oil and natural gas. Wyoming’s per capita severance tax revenue was $1,152 in 2019. Severance tax revenue is extremely volatile and can quickly rise and fall with the price and production of natural resources.
Governor Mark Gordon, a Republican, was elected in 2018 with 68 percent of the vote. The next gubernatorial election is in 2022.
Republicans control both the House of Representatives (51 Republicans to 7 Democrats and 2 independents) and Senate (28 Republicans to 2 Democrats), with veto-proof majorities in both houses. Control of the governor’s mansion and each house of the legislature gives Republicans a trifecta in Wyoming. All Wyoming House seats are on the ballot in 2022 because representatives serve two-year terms. Senators serve four-year terms; roughly half the senatorial seats are on the ballot in 2022, and the other half will be up for election in 2024.
Wyoming’s budget institutions, rules, and constraints
Wyoming uses a biennial budget. Wyoming uses one of the least strict processes in implementing its budget. There are no balanced budget requirements, no tax or expenditure limits, and no limits on authorized debt and debt service.
(Note: Some states have informal budget institutions that constrain overall spending growth or a specific expenditure’s growth.)
Wyoming’s recent fiscal debates
- In 2017, 5 percent of Wyoming’s state and local general revenue came from severance taxes. That was the second-largest percentage in the nation (trailing only North Dakota; Alaska also collected 5 percent from severance taxes), but it was down from 7 percent in 2016. Although severance tax revenue lets Wyoming keep other taxe