Perhaps a silver lining emanating from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic is that for many of us the need to prioritize has itself become a top priority.
Service oriented businesses have become creative in how they do business in their efforts to continue to generate enough revenue to stay alive. Businesses have been forced to take a step back and look at their priorities in the face of actual or projected reduced income. This changes how many will do business now and into the future. This also means a shift in employment. Unfortunately, some have already lost jobs, but other businesses are hiring like crazy to fill positions so they can handle the growth they are experiencing. There are jobs available, but maybe in a different industry or field.
Families, too, are prioritizing their lives and budgets based on impact from the corona virus. What was important 4 months ago may have moved way down on the priority list under current circumstances. Depending on what soon happens with schools, family priorities may change some more.
Government at all levels is where we hear most about the virus impact. Our federal government has responded, some strings attached, with tons of money to help off set losses in local and state taxes. Wyoming was already faced with less revenue coming in from mineral severance taxes and the pandemic has just piled on.
This is where there may be a silver lining. The problem has become so severe that our elected representatives are going to have to seriously wrangle over priorities. We can no longer tinker at the edges of budgets. In Wyoming, our cities and counties rely on state dollars as a big part of their budgets. The federal spigot of dollars will evenutually dry up. Now is the time for all of us to get involved and remind our leaders just what our priorities should be. Not an easy discussion, and none of us will totally agree on where the scarce dollars should be spent. But having travelled the priority road, the state will be better for the journey.
Human nature desires to be liked and appreciated. Human nature makes us want to shy away from unpopular decisions, and leads to the blame game.
On the state level we are finding out who the real leaders are. Who will step up and lead the way to set priorities that make sense for Wyoming? These leaders will face massive criticism from those who disagree. But those who show courage in the face of this adversity will gain respect and support in the long run.
We know there is less money to go around, at least in the short term. We know there are agencies, towns, and people who will find themselves with less funding or totally without funding. Setting these priorities and sticking to them will not be easy.
Keep that in mind as we enter into discussions, and sometimes heated debates over our priorities. Whether you agree or not, we all deserve respectful discourse over the issues. We are not the only state facing shortfalls, it would be wonderful for Wyoming to once again show the way in how to civilly deal with this problem together.
Let’s hope we can find enough courageous leaders, who will listen to us, and work together to build a consensus on solid priorities for our state.