- Associated Press - Saturday, January 23, 2016

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Gov. Matt Mead said he disagrees with a state legislative committee’s recommendations to cut K-12 school funding and an early childhood literacy program.

Speaking Friday at the Wyoming Press Association winter convention, Mead also said he favors providing more money to local governments.

Education Week recently ranked Wyoming eighth in the country in school accountability, taking school funding into account.

But on Thursday, the Joint Appropriation Committee voted to cut $45 million in public school money over the next two years. The committee also recommended eliminating funding for eight family literacy programs throughout the state.

Mead has suggested cuts to several state programs but he did not slash education in his budget recommendation to lawmakers.

Mead noted Wyoming has been recognized throughout the country as a place that values education.

“I don’t think anybody in the state doesn’t want to do our best in education,” he said. “The history of the state of Wyoming is we have really funded education well.”

The governor said he wants the state’s education system to be the best in the country.

“In order to do that you have to be able to attract and retain great people for education,” he said.

Mead’s budget recommendation doesn’t include cuts to the literacy programs.

“One of the keys to making educating as great as it can be in the state is early childhood literacy,” he said.

Mead and the Joint Appropriations Committee also differ on state aid to state towns, cities and counties.

The committee is proposing $90 million for local governments, while Mead wants to spend about $33 million more.

“When it comes to local government, I believe that is where the action is,” Mead said. “In this budget time, I understand this might not be agreeable to everyone. But if you want to get out of this situation, I believe you have to continue providing funding for local governments. If we can’t fund local governments the best we can, we’re going to lose the momentum we have in economic development and we’re going to lose the opportunity to keep young people in the state.”

Lower prices in oil, natural gas and coal, which provide 70 percent of the state’s revenue, have resulted in a projected $335 million shortfall in a two-year budget.

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