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January 20, 2009 6:02 am

Freudenthal: Recession is showing itself in Wyoming

Written by Tribune Staff

The recession that has resulted in economic turmoil and sleepless nights for laid-off workers is introducing its unwelcome face in Wyoming.

That's the word from Gov. Dave Freudenthal, who addressed the Wyoming Press Association in Cheyenne Friday.

“It's here,” Freudenthal said. “It's just beginning to manifest itself in the layoffs.”

During a question-and-answer session, Freudenthal referred to the recent retail layoffs at Sierra Trading Post and media job cuts at the state's two largest newspapers, the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star Tribune.

Freudenthal said the recession is “working its way through” the state's economy. If natural gas rigs are shut down, not only does it affect that company's employees, but also restaurants and hotels, Freudenthal said.

Freudenthal said he couldn't say how long the recession would last, adding if he knew, he would win the Nobel Prize and start investing on Wall Street.

As it is, the governor is warning state agencies of the possibility of cuts in future funding and deciding which budget items to invest in, such as capital construction.

Certain programs, such as social services, could see reductions in future state funding for expansion.

“It's not that I'm heartless,” Freudenthal said. “It's that my wallet is empty.”

Freudenthal stressed he's not cutting existing budgets. Agencies will get the funding they were promised — but may not get the increases they anticipated.

He called last year's biennium budget “incredibly generous.”

Legislators convened in Cheyenne last week for the 2009 general session with less money than was initially expected.

Projections for this session's supplemental budget surplus plummeted from $900 million in October to $260 million this month.

“I think people are having a hard time adjusting to the idea that we don't have as much money as we thought we did,” Freudenthal said.