Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon delivers his State of the State address at the start of the 2022 Budget Session. The legislature passed a "trigger law" to ban abortions if Roe v. Wade were overturned during the session. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon issued his first veto of 2022 legislation passed by the Wyoming Legislature on Thursday, exercising his veto authority to reject Senate Enrolled Act 18.

That legislation aims to add constraints on the expenditure of COVID-19 relief funds and force the expiration of pandemic-related emergency programs on March 26, 2022. The legislation would then have appropriated up to $50 million in otherwise unobligated American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars allocated to Wyoming to the office of the governor on March 27, 2022, but only if a separate piece of legislation is enacted into law.

That other piece of legislation is Senate Enrolled Act 20, legislation that would appropriate and guide the use of about $334.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act Direct funds that have been allocated to Wyoming.

The governor explained his decision to veto Senate Enrolled Act 18 in a letter to Senate President Dan Dockstader. Gordon said that he supports and plans to sign Senate Enrolled Act 20 as that legislation is guided by recommendations made by the executive branch for use of the ARPA funds. The executive branch recommendations for use of the funds “were based on months of stakeholder engagement and proposal development,” Gordon wrote.

“While Senate Enrolled Act 20 reflects our shared vision, Senate Enrolled Act 18 is redundant and runs contrary to our partnership efforts to responsibly spend federal funding,” Gordon wrote. “Senate Enrolled Act 18 unnecessarily constrains the Governor’s authority to expend funds on emergency programs.”

“Experience has demonstrated that flexibility and adaptability are especially important given the ongoing economic hardships caused by the pandemic. Hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic do not end simply because I have declared an end to the Public Health Emergency. Latitude is advisable to wind down programs in an orderly way. Now is not the time for the Legislature to tie the hands of the Executive Branch to respond to the needs of our citizens.”

Gordon added that he thinks Senate Enrolled Act 20 includes “reasonable spending restrictions” on how ARPA dollars can be used in Wyoming.

“Thus, the limitations of Senate Enrolled Act 18 are both redundant and unnecessary,” the governor wrote. “We should continue our partnership in order to craft responsible spending plans for the federal funds directed to our state. Senate Enrolled Act 18 conflicts with the spirit of that partnership, and I am therefore vetoing it.”