By Nick Reynolds and Seth Klamman
Campaign promises only mean so much.
While governors set the tone and the general direction of a state’s destiny, it is the legislature they work with — independent and made of dozens of independent minds — that controls the flow of the conversation.
After a grueling summer and a hustled winter, Gov.-elect Mark Gordon will step to the rostrum this January to be sworn in as Wyoming’s 33rd governor, taking the reins of a state facing difficult questions about its future.
On the campaign trail, Gordon was questioned about education funding and health care, economic diversification and bolstering the state’s often uncertain revenues, improving government transparency and his hopes for criminal justice reform. However, Gordon’s ambitions — like those held by his predecessor, Matt Mead, in his pursuit of Medicaid expansion — will depend somewhat on the whims of a young Wyoming Legislature with varied ideas on solving the state’s most pressing issues.
Wyoming has some of the highest health care premiums in the nation, and its education system, while bailed out by a friendly market for oil and gas this year, still faces plenty of questions about its future. Wyoming, reluctant to take on new taxes, is considering biting the bullet on unpopular options to raise revenue with a governor who, on the campaign trail, pledged not to support new taxes. On criminal justice reform, the governor faces an overflowing prison system and a slate of bills to address the problem two years after the Legislature quashed the most significant hope for reform.
While every administration faces challenges in carrying out their agendas, five significant questions remain as bills begin to move out of legislative committees and onto the general session.