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Gordon signs supplemental Wyoming budget; will cut $430M, eliminate 324 state positions

Governor Mark Gordon (Dan Cepeda, Oil City File)

CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon has signed a supplemental budget (House Bill 01) which includes over $430 million in cuts and eliminates 324 state positions, the governor’s office announced on Thursday, April 1.

Gordon had initially proposed cutting funding for various departments and services in the state by over $500 million, but his office said that an improved revenue forecast in January allowed for a smaller reduction.

“This budget restores a modest amount of funding to several Wyoming Department of Health programs for seniors, the disabled, low-income residents and those requiring mental health services,” Gordon’s office said. “It also restores $8 million in funding to the University of Wyoming and the state’s Community Colleges to support the Governor’s Wyoming Innovation Network initiative.”

Gordon’s office said the budget cuts will reduce the size of state government in Wyoming “t to its smallest level since the early 2000s.”

“Despite an epic decline in revenue we were able to maintain some crucial programs while making some modest but integral one-time investments,” Gordon wrote in a budget letter addressed to Wyoming Speaker of the House Eric Barlow. “The budget does set our state back by eliminating valuable programs and services, and some of the impacts of the cuts we have had to make will be felt by those who are already struggling; but it is our constitutional duty to right-size our government based on revenues.”

Gordon issued a number of line-item vetoes to aspects of the supplemental budget bill which his office said includes items in the budget bill “that represent substantive lawmaking in the budget bill and those that present separation of powers concerns.”

The section of Gordon’s budget letter detailing his line-item vetoes reads as follows:

Thank you again for your efforts. With my signature, House Bill 001, House of Representative Enrolled Act 45 has the following line-item vetoes:

Section 006 Administration and Information Footnote 4

The Department of A&I has committed to making cuts to the state leasing program. A&I has been working diligently on this process and will have it fully implemented in the upcoming biennial budget. I have struck the prescriptive language because, on a practical note, an emergency or unanticipated leasing necessity could require more flexibility. Nevertheless, it remains the intent of the executive branch to reduce our leasing budget by 28%.

Section 007 Wyoming Military Department Footnote 4

The management of the Veterans Museum was transferred from the Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources to the Military Department in a single-subject piece of legislation in 2008. If the legislative intent is that the responsibility for management of the museum returns to State Parks, mandating an MOU represents substantive lawmaking within the budget bill. A transfer of responsibility or authority for any particular program is appropriately the subject of a stand-alone bill. Even so, for the time being the Military Department is committed to working with State Parks for the operation and administration of the Veterans Museum and this can be codified with a stand-alone bill next year.

Section 024 State Parks & Cultural Resources Footnote 8

This conforms with the change to the Military Department budget. This footnote presents substantive law-making within the budget bill. I support making this change in a stand-alone bill next year, but until then the Military Department is committed to working with State Parks and Cultural Resources for the operation and administration of the Veterans Museum.

Section 027 State Construction Department Footnote 2

The review and performance assessment of individual employees in state agencies is the exclusive responsibility of the Executive Branch and the authority of the Legislative Branch does not extend to the review and assessment of Executive Branch employees. Since your expressed intent relates to a matter for which you have no authority now or in the future, I have vetoed this footnote.

Section 053 Department of Workforce Services Footnote 2

The Department of Workforces Services is committed to working with the Wyoming Business Council for the operation and administration of the Wyoming Council for Women’s Issues. Work is already underway to execute an MOU for the two agencies. However, mandating such an agreement transfers the authority to administer the Wyoming Council for Women’s Issues to a different agency and therefore represents substantive lawmaking within the budget bill. It is appropriately the subject of a stand-alone bill and I commit to work with you to develop such a bill next year.

Section 085 Wyoming Business Council Footnote 1

This conforms with the change to the Department of Workforce Services budget. The required MOU represents substantive law-making within the budget bill. These changes are appropriately the subject of a stand-alone bill. The Department of Workforces Services is committed to working with the Wyoming Business Council for the operation and administration of the Wyoming Council for Women’s Issues.

Section 206 Department of Education Footnote 2

This vetoed language is overly prescriptive in directing how an Executive Branch agency functions when it comes to making staffing, workforce and resource allocation decisions, and therefore raises separation of powers concerns. For instance, if the Board of Education wanted to pay this contractor less than $136,890 it could not or if the Board wanted to hire two contractors for $68,445 each to work part-time the Board could not if this footnote remains.

Section 3

Careful inspection of the vetoed portion of this section seems especially appropriate on April 1. This veto conforming to the veto I made to Section 300, requires an especially artful and careful — if clever — use of red ink. 

Section 300 – Budget Balance Transfers (p)

Subsection (p) directs the State Auditor’s office to transfer the balance of the Wyoming State Penitentiary Capital Construction Account in equal parts to the Permanent Wyoming Mineral Trust Fund and the Common School Account within the Permanent Land Fund. The State Penitentiary Capital Construction Account was created in 2017 as a sub-account of the Strategic Investment and Projects Account (SIPA). While I am in favor of repealing the SIPA, I believe this account needs to be part of an interim topic discussion and therefore the transfer should not happen at this time.

“With the passage of this supplemental budget, we now must embark on the hard work of creating our next standard budget,” Gordon added in the letter. “I look forward to presenting it to you in November. There are a couple of items I would like to raise now so they are on your radar. First, part of the Department of Corrections’ budget cut was brought forward with the understanding that a separate bill would raise fees to help pay for the cost of probation and parole officers.”

“These are key positions for public safety; however that fee increase did not pass. This is unfortunate and seems ill-timed placing unrealistic burdens on the department to man yet not fully pay for the positions allowed. I will be seeking to use federal American Rescue Plan dollars for these positions or in the budget next year I will be asking for a provision that enables funding to those positions, which you did restore. I will ask that they be effective immediately.”

Gordon’s full budget letter is available online.

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