Western Governors’ News: Sustainable energy, broadband connectivity, workforce development and infrastructure upgrades among top priorities for Western Governors in recent months

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 announced the first-ever Alaska Sustainable Energy Conference, which will be held in Anchorage this May. “From the fast tides of Cook Inlet, to the vast, untapped deposits of critical minerals needed to power the coming energy revolution, to the renewable microgrids that dot the far north, the Last Frontier is the ideal location to unveil the future of sustainable energy,” he said. 

America Samoa Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga created the American Samoa Resilience Commission and Governor’s Resilience Office, which will coordinate responses to emerging climate emergencies including intensifying tropical cyclones, the loss of coastal lands, food insecurity and the degradation of coral reefs.   

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced that the state will invest $68 million as part of the Statewide Middle-Mile Network to expand broadband connectivity along Interstate 40 West from Flagstaff to the California border. “This critical infrastructure will give more homes fast internet, improve public safety, increase access to education and help more Arizonans get the care they need through telemedicine,” Gov. Ducey said. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom awarded $311.7 million for 126 beautification projects along the state highway system. Designed to foster cultural connections and civic pride, the projects are expected to generate 3,600 jobs as part of the multiyear initiative to remove trash and beautify community gateways as well as public areas along highways, streets and roads. 

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order that will provide high-speed internet access to more than 99% of the state in the next four to five years. “As we forge a path forward from this pandemic, we must continue closing the digital divide, equipping our students and small businesses with access to digital tools to thrive in their chosen field or trade, and reach new markets,” Gov. Polis said.

Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero allocated an additional $5 million to support a Local Employers’ Assistance Program for economic recovery and local businesses. To date, the program has awarded 444 grants with more than 400 additional applications poised for approval.

Hawaii Gov. David Y. Ige announced a $364 million boost in funding for capital investment projects, including health care system readiness, education, workforce development and affordable housing. “Despite setbacks resulting from the pandemic, I remain committed to improving the well-being and quality of life for all Hawaiʻi’s residents.” 

Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed his Leading Idaho teacher health insurance bill into law that provides school districts the option to join the state’s health care plan. The improved health care plan for teachers would eventually increase state funding for insurance premiums by nearly $4,000 per teacher.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly unveiled the Building a Stronger Economy program that offers funds to aid economic development and infrastructure expansion in areas including water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure. “Programs like this provide vital funding to ensure Kansas communities continue to recover from COVID-19 and grow their economies,” she said. 

Mariana Islands Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres provided remarks to congress highlighting how money from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the American Rescue plan would be used to invest in critical infrastructure that helps communities grow, improve quality of life and plan for climate and weather issues. 

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte allocated $6 million for Accelerate Montana, a program that partners with high schools, as well as public, private and tribal colleges to provide rapid workforce training for nurses and clinical social workers. “Montana’s health care system depends on a highly-skilled workforce trained to deliver the highest quality of care to Montanans,” he said.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum awarded a $10 million grant for the Grand Farm Education and Research Initiative to expand workforce initiatives that upskill the autonomous agriculture workforce with qualified professionals and ensure advanced farming techniques. “Our state is an innovative leader in agriculture technologies, and Grand Farm and its partners’ work will advance cutting-edge research and commercialization of new farming concepts to increase productivity and profitability, reduce inputs, improve soil health and help address workforce needs through automation.”

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak awarded the first round of funding from the state’s $30 million Community Recovery Grants program to four nonprofits that assisted residents throughout the pandemic. “These grants are a small token of our appreciation for their services which have been instrumental in helping Nevadans recover,” he said. 

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed two bills into law that provide more resources to solve cases of murdered and missing and Indigenous women. Senate Bill 12 creates a position in the Attorney General’s office dedicated to solving these cases. Senate Bill 13 establishes an annual event with federal, state, local and tribal governments to provide resources for families of the missing. 

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt unveiled a $5 billion plan to invest in highway infrastructure over the next 15 years. The project would alleviate traffic in metro areas by adding lanes. Off and on-ramps would also be added to existing turnpikes to improve safety conditions in rural areas. 

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced plans to invest $200 million in Future Ready Oregon, a program that would address workforce shortages by providing resources to train new employees in the health care, manufacturing and construction industries. “These key sectors provide short-term pathways to meaningful employment, higher earning potential, and opportunities for economic mobility,” the plan states. 

South Dakota Gov Kristi Noem announced the development of a South Dakota Citizen Portal to modernize citizen services. “We want to make it easy to do business with the State of South Dakota,” she said. “This portal is the launch point for the services that citizens regularly access, such as state park reservations or hunting licenses.”

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox released the first chapter of Utah’s Coordinated Action Plan for Water that addresses long-term water planning and conservation by prioritizing more than 200 previous recommendations. “We have benefited from water storage decisions made by policymakers 100 years ago,” he said. “Now it’s our turn to ensure water security for future generations and this plan will do this.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed an executive order that provides an actionable process for state agencies to meet diversity goals. Under the order, executive and small cabinet agencies must adopt the state’s best practices toolkit, work with the Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises on inclusive outreach and data and support the Department of Enterprise Services.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon created a leadership team that will work with state agencies to determine the best ways to use funds from the Federal Infrastructure and Jobs Act that align with Wyoming’s values. “A coordinated effort will ensure that we have an organized approach and target our resources to ensure our efforts are aligned with Wyoming’s needs and values,” he said. 

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