Governor issues line-item vetoes to supplemental budget

Jasmine Hall with the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, via the Wyoming News Exchange

CHEYENNE — Gov. Mark Gordon issued 21 line-item vetoes to the supplemental budget bill passed by the Wyoming Legislature this general session.

The vetoes — outlined in a letter sent Friday evening to House Speaker Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale — balanced applauding the successes of lawmakers and representing disagreements he said in no way detracted from their hard work.


Gordon recognized legislators’ collective efforts to save $1.4 billion for future generations, offer tax relief to residents, invest in energy industries and divert funds to diversify the economy. The governor also appreciated both chambers for passing the budget in record time, while increasing transparency for the residents of Wyoming. He said there were two successes he specifically wanted to highlight: one that would have a long-term positive effect and another that would provide an immediate positive benefit.


The first was for every dollar of state revenue spent, the supplemental budget saved $3.50. 


He recommended more than $600 million be placed into permanent savings, and the Legislature placed $735 million into the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund account.


He also supported lawmakers reallocating a substantial portion of what would have gone to the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account, or “rainy-day fund” and putting it instead in various trust funds.


In regard to an immediate benefit, Gordon expressed support for the market adjustments in compensation for state employees and teachers. Lawmakers fully funded both of his recommendations in this area, and the governor said it would help improve employee retention and recruit the “necessary and much-needed reinforcements” that he considers a key component of the economy.


“I congratulate the Legislature for its work on my budget recommendations,” Gordon said in a prepared statement. “It is gratifying that the budget submitted to me is closely aligned with my original recommendations. Where we disagreed, or where they overstepped the separation of powers embedded in our Constitution, I exercised my veto authority.The fiscal condition of the state remains strong.”


Gordon’s line-item vetoes covered significant territory in the bill but were less focused on cutting down appropriations lawmakers made and more about the direction that was given. However, there were still such actions as removing funding for a state employee survey and feasibility study because he believed it should be in a separate bill, or decreasing the additional funds for community colleges to address inflation from $3.5 million to $500,000.


These line-item vetoes are not final, as both chambers will have the opportunity to review them and decide whether to vote to override them.This would require a two thirds vote in the body and agreement among both state senators and representatives.


Rep. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle committee members will meet Sunday to discuss what they believe are overriding priorities to bring to the body.


In his initial review of the letter, he said he didn’t believe it was an unusual number of vetoes for a governor, and many are relatively small changes. He said the flash points were the typical tug of war between how prescriptive the Legislature can be when it appropriates money, such as telling agencies in the executive branch what kind of person to hire or which position to fill.


Gordon addressed issues related to legislative control in the University of Wyoming’s budget and the Department of Environmental Quality’s budget. He also vetoed a section in the Supreme Court’s budget, which tries to control and cap the annual salary of a judicial branch employee.The governor said it encroaches upon “the inherent prerogative of the judicial branch.”


“That’s the struggle there,” Stith said. “It’s the beauty of our form of government. We have three independent branches of government, and there’s tension between all three branches — executive, judicial and legislative. And as there should be.”


Senate Appropriations Committee member Sen. Mike Gierau, D-Jackson, weighed in on the governor’s pushback and agreed with Stith’s observations. He said Gordon has been very clear through the years about what he believes is legislating in the budget with footnotes and directions to government departments.


There weren’t many decisions he disagreed with in the letter, but he said he was surprised by the veto of a footnote for the Wyoming Department of Transportation. The Legislature said $8.6 million from the general fund for the department should only be for the operations, maintenance and offsetting charges to local government users for the WyoLink statewide public safety radio communications system.


Gordon said he believed the footnote was overfunding the program, and he anticipates other funds can be used in the next standard budget.

Gierau said he understood vetoes in areas such as energy matching funds and enterprise inflation. Lawmakers appropriated the funding requested for state agencies to address inflation concerns, which will go toward the rising costs of food, fuel, electricity and health care. 


But the Legislature said there was intent not to include them in the standard budget for the immediately succeeding fiscal biennium. 


“Sadly, inflation, while it may be slowing, is not going away, and these costs do need to be added to the succeeding fiscal biennium budget,” Gordon wrote.

The Legislature has a week left in its general session schedule, and there are expectations among both Gierau and Stith that each chamber will have vetoes they wish to override. Neither see every veto being challenged, though, as some are simple adjustments.


“We appreciate the governor’s message, and are reviewing it with care,” said Stith.


This story was published on Feb. 26, 2023.


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