Western Governors’ News: Governors invest in infrastructure and workforce development, take the lead on environmental conservation and disaster recovery projects

The Western Governors' Association offers a periodic roundup of Western Governors' work in economic development, natural resources, education, health and safety, and a variety of other areas. Here are some of the issues that the Governors have been working on recently:

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy created The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband to assess remaining gaps in the system and technologies used to deliver broadband. The Task Force also will make recommendations to the Governor about state involvement in broadband infrastructure development and equitable use of state funds to assist in the buildout of broadband networks to get more Alaskans connected. 

American Samoa Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga created the Territorial Hazard Mitigation Council to create overall mitigation strategies, oversee agency coordination, and secure federal funding.   

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation to implement the Arizona Surface Water Protection Program and create a list of rivers, streams, and lakes used for drinking, recreation and fishing that are protected from harmful discharges of any pollutant. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlined the $100 billion California Comeback Plan. The biggest economic recovery package in state history includes additional direct payments to middle-class families that make up to $75,000, $5.1 billion for drought response and long-term water resilience investments, and a renter assistance package. 

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis met with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Senator Michael Bennet, and Congressman Joe Neguse for a discussion on the need to make long-term investments in restoring forests to protect them from catastrophic wildfire.

Guam Gov. Lou Guerrero launched the Governor’s Education Assistance and Youth Empowerment Grant Program to fund student engagement for Guam’s public, private, and charter school students. This program will maximize the $33 million awarded in Education Stabilization Funds dedicated to the Governor’s Office through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. 

Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced the release of more than $278 million to fund critical public infrastructure projects across the state. “It is now more important than ever to reimagine and rebuild our communities while ensuring that disadvantaged groups previously impacted don’t get left behind,” he said.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed legislation to allocate $80 million for transportation projects, the single largest state investment ever in transportation infrastructure. It also allows the state to bond for up to $1.6 billion for transportation infrastructure projects statewide without raising taxes.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced six counties were awarded $8.5 million through the Kansas High Risk Rural Roads Program, a state/local partnership designed to improve safety on off-system rural roads. “This will go a long way to improve critical local roadways, protect Kansans, and spur economic growth,” she said.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte visited Missoula College to highlight the state’s growing cybersecurity workforce, which continues to grow in part because of the college’s National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Two-Year Education. “We’re focused on developing a talented cybersecurity workforce in the state to ensure Montanans’ personal information and data are safe, secure, and protected,” he said.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak launched the Nevada Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative. The Initiative gives employers the support and resources needed to implement recovery-friendly practices and provide support for employees in recovery and impacted by Substance Use Disorder.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham established the Health Care Affordability Fund, dedicated to reducing the cost of health insurance and medical expenses for working families. The bill prohibits copays and other cost-sharing for people with insurance who seek behavioral health services.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed a $680 million bonding package to support infrastructure upgrades across the state, including flood control, roads, bridges, water projects and an agricultural facility – all using Legacy Fund earnings and without raising taxes.

Northern Mariana Islands Gov. Ralph Torres created the Infrastructure and Recovery Program, a new program under the Governor’s Office, which will handle nearly a billion dollars worth of projects to be completed in the next several years.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed legislation to modernize the state’s civil service system by consolidating administrative human resource functions under the state’s central Human Capital Management Division and doing away with the merit protection program. 

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a drought in Klamath County and directed state agencies to coordinate and prioritize assistance to the region. "The Klamath Basin faces one of the most difficult water years in recent memory. Moving forward, we must look for long-term solutions to the underlying issue in Klamath and many other Oregon counties,” she said. 

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem launched two recruitment campaigns and two scholarship programs to further develop the state’s workforce and meet the demand of a fast-growing economy.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox ordered water conservation measures at state facilities in response to dry conditions throughout the state. “State government is committed to doing its part to conserve water and we encourage all Utahns to use this most precious resource wisely and sparingly,” Gov Cox said. 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed the Fair Start for Kids Act. The legislation will make childcare more accessible and affordable for families across Washington state.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon signed legislation to launch the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program in Wyoming. The program will utilize $200 million in federal funding to cover rent and utility costs for state residents struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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