- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) - Despite dire budget forecasts, Gov. Matt Mead said he supports continuing a state program that matches dollar-for-dollar contributions of up to $5 million to University of Wyoming athletics.

“What we’ve got started here at UW with regard to athletics, with regard to engineering, the science initiative, I don’t want that momentum to stop,” Mead told the Casper Star-Tribune (https://bit.ly/1VrncRH ).

Mead said he is still fashioning his proposed state budget, which is due by Dec. 1, and the budget numbers aren’t yet clear.

But Mead said “if at all possible” he wants to keep money flowing to athletics and other initiatives at the state’s only public four-year university.

The state Legislature meets early next year to work out the state’s next two-year budget plan.

Wyoming relies on its mineral extraction industry for most of its state revenue. But falling prices for oil and other energy industry commodities have resulted in less money coming into state coffers.

Mead has said that the state has the revenue to meet its day-to-day operations. But he said the state may have to tap into a rainy day fund the state has built up in recent years for spending above the normal operating budget.

The state is currently matching 100 percent of funds raised by the University of Wyoming’s athletics booster club from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016, up to $5 million.

UW athletics director Tom Burman said the Cowboy Joe Club match must continue for UW to be competitive in the Mountain West Conference, especially with new expenses like a nutrition program that runs the athletic department $650,000 to $700,000 per year.

Burman said the state matching money is “critical to our success.”

In addition to matching Cowboy Joe Club donations, the state also has provided money for other UW athletic expenses, such as $20 million for the renovation of the Arena-Auditorium.

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