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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 $8.9 billion in FY 2017 (the most recent year census data were available), or $15,354 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 $9,446.
Wyoming’s largest spending areas per capita were elementary and secondary education ($3,298) and health and hospitals ($2,724). 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 $8.6 billion in FY 2017, or $14,816 per capita. National per capita general revenues were $9,592. 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 ($2,956), such as state university tuition and highway tolls, and property taxes ($2,188). 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 $771 in 2017. 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 taxes low (and not tax individual and corporate income), it also creates challenges. The volatility of severance tax revenue requires states to have flexible budgeting arrangements, other readily exploitable revenue sources, or significant rainy-day funds to accommodate unforeseen changes in severance tax revenue flows. In 2019, Governor Gordon and legislators discussed moving the state away from its heavy reliance on severance tax revenue. And the legislature debated several revenue proposals that year, including bills to create a 7 percent corporate income tax, establish a 4 percent individual income tax on taxable income over $200,000, and broaden the general sales tax base (paired with a rate reduction). None of these bills were successful, though. At the end of 2019, with severance tax revenues down, Governor Gordon announced the state would use reserve funds to avoid budget cuts.
- Wyoming is one of 14 states that have not accepted funds for expanding Medicaid eligibility created by the Affordable Care Act. The Urban Institute estimates that if Wyoming had accepted Medicaid expansion, it would have received 16.6 percent more federal Medicaid funds ($94 million) and increased its state spending on Medicaid 4.9 percent ($15 million). Urban estimates that savings from Medicaid expansion (e.g., lower spending on uncompensated care) would, like with other states, fully or largely offset Wyoming’s additional direct state spending. The Wyoming legislature has voted down expansion several times but is expected to debate expansion again in 2020.
Wyoming’s current budget
Governor Gordon released his FY 2021–2022 biennial budget proposal in November 2019. Over the two-year period, the governor proposed $3.1 billion in general fund spending and $8.9 billion in total spending.
Wyoming enacted its FY 2021–2022 biennial budget in March 2020. The enacted budget allocated $3.0 billion in general fund spending and $8.8 billion in total spending
In November 2020, Governor Gordon released his proposed FY 2021-22 supplemental budget. Governor Gordon proposal includes $515 million in spending cuts, or roughly a 15 percent cut for each state agency, and eliminating 380 state government jobs. In addition to the spending reductions, the budget also draws on the state’s rainy day funds to balance the budget. Governor Gordon has not yet given his State of the State address.
For more on Wyoming’s budget, see
Wyoming’s economic trends
Wyoming’s per capita income (per the Bureau of Economic Analysis) was $63,316 in 2019, ranking ninth among the states. It was above both the national average of $56,663 and the Rocky Mountain regional average of $54,769. The state’s median household income (five-year estimate) was $62,268 in 2018, ranking 19th among the states and above the national average of $60,293. Wyoming’s poverty rate was 11.1 percent in 2018 (five-year estimate), below the national rate of 14.1 percent.
Although Wyoming’s averages tell a story about the entire state, Wyoming is composed of diverse localities. For example, the city of Laramie’s median household income was $44,186, and its poverty rate was 25.9 percent; the city of Rock Springs’s median household income was $75,441, and its poverty rate was 11 percent.
Wyoming’s unemployment rate has historically been below the national average, particularly following the Great Recession. In recent years, however, the state’s rate has more closely paralleled the US rate. (See how COVID-19 is affecting state employment and earnings data.)