OK, now that we have 2020 in our rear-view mirror, what do we foresee for 2021? This is my annual prediction column.
First, we are not done with COVID-19. Not by a long shot. A few thousand doses of vaccine have reached the state and it might take a lot longer to get our folks vaccinated than originally thought.
Meanwhile, news of a new strain of the virus that is even more contagious makes 2021 look even scarier. There are cases of this new strain already in Colorado.
The mandatory mask order is still in place in Wyoming along with some restrictions. Financially, some more federal CARES money is on the way, which will help our ailing businesses.
But let’s move on to another depressing piece of news in looking at 2021 – the state’s economy. With Joe Biden the new president things are going to be tougher for fossil fuel companies. With Wyoming relying so much on fossil fuels, this bit of news will force the people of the Cowboy State to diversify even more if they are to grow and prosper.
Despite valiant efforts by governors and the Wyoming Business Council in the past decades, the level of diversification will need to be ramped up. This is great news for the excellent economic development groups in our cities and towns. Not since the horrible 1980s have the people of our state needed you like they need you now.
And finally, some good news in 2021 – tourism. From July on last year, tourism exploded in Wyoming. Well, the dam will truly burst in 2021. People in this country want to get out and “out there” will mean Wyoming.
Despite all their troubles of the past 12 months, folks in the motel and restaurant and attraction businesses should have a banner year. They deserve to have one, too. Now this will be fun although we might find ourselves complaining about the crowds. Who are all these visitors and where did they come from?
With what the legislature has to deal with, you would have thought nobody would want that job? Yet dozens of folks campaigned hard and spent a lot of money last year trying to get in.
In a big shift, some far-right conservatives knocked off some powerful Republicans that they perceived as moderates. This will mean cuts, cuts, and more cuts will be occurring whenever the Legislature meets in 2021. I say “whenever” because there is some talk about postponing much of the session due to the COVID-19 virus. It might be a good idea to have a delay so a clearer idea might emerge about how much money the Legislature will be short.
Spending on education will be in the sights of these conservatives. Education has been a sacred cow in Wyoming for decades thanks to earlier court decisions, plenty of severance tax money, and pride in providing good educations for our children. But all bets are now off.
It is easy to predict this is where the biggest fights will be occurring. The State Senate, especially, will be a minefield for folks wanting to avoid cuts or, heaven forbid, actually raise taxes.
I see 2021 as a big year for Gov. Mark Gordon, U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, and University of Wyoming president Ed Seidel.
Gordon has spent a hellish year dealing with the virus in 2020 and he can look forward to dealing with the worst financial crisis the state has faced in 30 years. Whew!
Lummis will be a conservative star in the Senate if the Republicans can hold their majority. She will stir things up.
Seidel had a baptism by fire at UW with the plague in 2020. Now all he has to do is somehow keep everything going while incomes have been cut drastically.
Biggest economic boost in Wyoming in decades hopefully will kick off at F.E. Warren AFB in Cheyenne as billions of dollars are scheduled to a big retro-fit for the missiles.
In the world of wildlife, the big news will be how bad is the infestation of chronic wasting disease (CWD). It is a serious issue and it will be getting worse.
As the windiest state, the proliferation of windmills in Wyoming will continue as these 60-story tall giants continue to dot the landscapes.
When it comes to high tech, telemedicine will continue to grow. The expansion of high-quality broadband in rural areas would be a boon, too.
So, have I missed predicting the biggest story? Last year when I wrote a column predicting what was going to happen in 2020, there was no mention of a plague. Hmmm?
Bill Sniffin is the publisher of Cowboy State Daily. Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com.