Gov. Gordon vetoes several areas in supplemental budget bill

WYOMING – Governor Mark Gordon complimented the Wyoming Legislature on providing a supplemental budget that sets a “deft” fiscal path but did, however, pull out the red pen to make several line-item vetoes. He recognized that the budget act shows constraint and means Wyoming will increase its savings this year.

“I believe Wyoming’s residents will benefit from your efforts on this supplemental budget. In saying so, I recognize supplemental budgets are not meant to make enormous strides, but rather to adjust spending within the context of a broader budget passed in 2018,” Governor Gordon wrote, adding that he recognized the budget act shows constraint and means Wyoming will increase its savings this year.

The governor did use his authority on several line item vetoes, objecting to several provisions and especially examples of “legislating from within the budget.”

Governor Gordon also pointed to several areas that are potentially at odds with the Wyoming’s Constitution and need to be handled differently in the future. However, he did not veto these items.

Governor Gordon wrote:

  • “Recognizing that legislators are knowledgeable about the Constitution, I will take the 26 examples of the use of “shall” or “shall not” that are contrary to Article 4, Section 4 encompassed in this bill to be reasoned suggestions as I cannot imagine any legislator intentionally meant to infringe on the authority of the executive branch.  I have attached a list of the 26 examples. I imagine reviews of future budgets will avoid this sort of awkward vocabulary.”
  • “There are 29 footnotes with provisions that are unrelated to and not embracing an appropriation.  Since these are not tied to the budget or a specific appropriation the footnotes should be placed in single-subject bills and not included in the budget acts in the future.  I look forward to discussions with all of you about these matters and I strongly state my position so there will be a clear understanding that I will veto these footnotes containing this type of language in coming years.”

With just one day left in the general session, the House of Representatives is contemplating extending the session to better learn what the governor is opposed to and to potentially rework the legislation.

The Wyoming Republican Party commended the governor for his Constitutional approach to the supplemental budget process, noting that Mark Gordon pledged to get Wyoming’s fiscal house in order” while on the campaign trail last fall.

“Governor Gordon ensured that the promise made was a promise kept,” Party leaders said.

Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne added, “Governor Gordon deserves a tip of the hat for standing firm for the principles on which he ran….and [the governor’s] actions are an important step in restoring the proper role and scope of government.”


Gov. Gordon focused his vetoes on 14 areas which he explained in a detailed letter to the Legislature, which follows:

 

 Section 001 Footnote 8. Office of the Governor.

This provision is not related to the “ordinary expenses” of State government as required in Article 3, Section 34 of the State Constitution and should be a single-topic piece of legislation and not be included in an appropriations bill.  In fact, this was a single-subject piece of legislation that did not pass. However, I appreciate the concept and have interest in inflation-proofing permanent funds as does the Treasurer. Any work on this front will be done in coordination between the two offices and not in isolation.

 

Section 006 Footnote 3, Administration and Information.

Footnote 3 provides that the Department shall prepare standard procedures to complete a cost benefit analysis on all future State leases.  This provision fashions substantive law by creating new requirements that the Department must follow before entering into any new State lease.  As a result, this enactment is unrelated to and does not embrace appropriations for the “ordinary expenses” of State government as required in Article 3, Section 34 of the State Constitution.  Because these types of provisions are substantive lawmaking, they should be placed in single-subject bills and not included in the budget act. Nevertheless, I take your suggestion constructively and will bring this approach to the attention of the Department of Administration and Information and the State Building Commission which is already engaged in this approach.

 

Section 037, State Engineer.

The State Engineer’s Office is not requesting additional funding and is prepared to have one position eliminated, however this budget cuts two positions instead of one and there is a person currently in the other position.  I will not allow the State Engineer to use the empty position and plan to propose eliminating one position in the next budget. I must, however, preserve the one filled position otherwise there could be an unintended riff of an employee.

As this footnote is not related to the “ordinary expenses” of State government as required in Article 3, Section 34 of the State Constitution and should be a single-topic piece of legislation and not be included in an appropriations bill. That said, if a legislator would like to have a public meeting please ask, these are good conversations and a budget footnote is not needed.  I do commit to having the new State Engineer travel the state getting to know the public, gathering input and explaining the agency’s mission.

 

Section 045 Footnotes 4 & 5, Department of Transportation.

Footnote 4. This footnote raises a separation of powers issue because the Legislature, by specifically requiring the Commission to consult with one member of the Senate and one member of the House in selecting and negotiating the long-term contract arguably is controlling and managing the day-to-day operations of the executive branch — a practice that encroaches upon the inherent prerogatives of the executive branch.

Footnote 5. This provision is unrelated to an appropriation for the “ordinary expenses” of State Government because it is not tied to the budget or a specific appropriation — the provision instead requires the Department to retain a consultant to conduct a cost benefit analysis for the Department to report the findings to a legislative committee.  The subject and directives in this provision are beyond appropriations for “ordinary expenses” of State government and should be “made by [a] separate bill[s], [each] embracing but one subject.” Considering there was a separate bill contemplating the same intent that could not pass the Legislature I used my line item veto authority.

 

Section 085 Footnotes 1,3 & 4, Wyoming Business Council.

I acknowledge that there is much needed reform across the spectrum of economic development and have stated my intent to start a comprehensive review of our disparate efforts.  I understand that the motivation for several of these footnotes reflect frustrations with needed reforms. Accordingly, I take each of these suggestions as meaningful advice for the Business Council.  Still, specifically, I have vetoed the following footnotes:

Footnote 1 mandates additional marketing of Wyoming’s agricultural products in Asia; there is nearly $2 million available for this mission in the ENDOW account and I believe that is the right funding source.  My veto is based on legislative overreach into the affairs of the executive branch. Nevertheless, I recognize our economic diversification and economic development efforts must be better addressed and am committed to improving how the Business Council and ENDOW can better integrate and improve their endeavors in conjunction the state’s agricultural business community.

Footnote 3 withholds the use of certain monies appropriated for operations and for the Business Ready Community Program, an “ordinary expense[s]” of State government. The funds reserved are conditioned “upon further legislative action.”  Thus, as drafted, this restriction limits an appropriation already given. As such this footnote constitutes a violation of Article 2, Section 1 by infringing on the normal conduct of the executive branch.

This footnote further mandates a report which, while valuable, I have already begun to bring together. I take the suggestions as to the content of these reports to be helpful and respectfully submit that having an entity other than the Business Council report on how the state advances economic development might be more instructive.

Footnote 4 is too prescriptive and uses investment ready community funding in a manner which is outside of the normal process.  The goal of advancing the aerospace and defense industries is sound but the process is not, as marketing is not the only need of companies growing in this space.  The spending direction in this section of the budget bill is narrow in scope and overrides well-established processes for economic development by directly instructing the outcome.

 

Section 206 Footnote 5, Department of Education.

After consultation with, and upon the advice of, the State Superintendent, I saw several flaws with including this footnote in the budget act.  I appreciate the concept offered in establishing a pilot principal education program and appreciate the achievements of Sheridan County School District #2.  I believe school districts already have access to aspects of this program. I suggest that the Joint Education Committee consider this topic in the interim. Specifically, this footnote creates a significant disconnect to the collaborative and comprehensive Department of Education led process that has been developed during the past 4 years. It bypasses the multi-professional team which works on state and federally funded school support programs. Additionally, this footnote is inconsistent with the State Board of Education advisory process.

 

Section 313, Footnote 4, School Capital Construction.

This footnote is a provision that will help make our children safer in their schools.  I appreciate the intent and the language, which directs spending to maximize safety of students and staff and directs the Commission to consult with local districts to understand the facts on the ground.  I believe my line item veto clarifies that this consultation of local districts can happen and that the Commission will utilize its authority, which includes the priorities submitted; but does not limit spending to only the specified priorities.

 

Section 346, Wyoming’s Tomorrow Task Force.

This provision is not related to the “ordinary expenses” of State government as required in Article 3, Section 34 of the State Constitution and the creation of a task force should be done with a single-topic piece of legislation and should not be included in an appropriations bill.  In fact, this was a single-subject piece of legislation that did not pass. However, I appreciate the concept and it seems prudent to have the topics outlined in this footnote discussed in conjunction with the higher education study. I look forward to working with legislators to plan for the future of higher education in Wyoming.

 

Section 348, Flood Mitigation Public Facility Grant.

This provision is not related to the “ordinary expenses” of State government as required in Article 3, Section 34 of the State Constitution and should be a single-topic piece of legislation and not be included in an appropriations bill.  Additionally, the Abandoned Mine Land funding the State receives has been paid for years by the mining industry. It has well established guidelines for how it can be spent and a process for its allocation. While I agree that Bitter Creek is a deserving project, I am opposed to the precedent of including AML funding in the budget bill acts. As the project has not been vetted by the State Lands and Investment Board a letter from the Legislature noting your recommendation to the entire Board would be appreciated.

 

Section 351, Military Housing.

This project has been reviewed by both the Business Council’s Board of Directors and the State Lands and Investment Board, receiving $3 million in a Business Ready Community Grant and a $1.3 million loan. As I did elsewhere in the budget bill I have used my veto authority on provisions that go outside of the established process for economic development proposals. The project proponent should return to the Business Council with an updated proposal for subsequent review by the Board of Directors and the SLIB.

 

Section 352, Higher Education Study.

This provision is not related to the “ordinary expenses” of State government as required in Article 3, Section 34 of the State Constitution and should be a single-topic piece of legislation and not be included in an appropriations bill.  In fact, this was a single-subject piece of legislation that did not pass. However, I appreciate the concept and the need for improved interaction between UW and the community colleges, with a focus on how they serve the citizenry and industries of the state.  I fully plan to have robust and open discussions among these entities in the coming months.

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