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Wyoming governor signs two-year state budget with 19 vetoes

March 13, 2020 GMT

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon signed a two-year state budget Thursday while vetoing 19 sections that included across-the-board spending cuts to address falling revenue from the state’s coal, oil and natural gas industries.

Gordon’s approval of the fiscal 2021-22 budget in the late afternoon gave the House and Senate just seven hours — until the five-week legislative session ended at midnight — to override any of his line-item vetoes.

Focused on other last-minute legislation, they hadn’t taken up any of the vetoes by evening.

One budget area Gordon vetoed sought to save $1 million a year by telling the governor to eliminate unspecified positions. Cuts should be more specific and targeted, Gordon said in his veto letter to Senate President Drew Perkins, R-Casper.

Gordon similarly vetoed an across-the-board, 1% cut for agency budgets.

“I believe we must be thoughtful in our decisions to reduce state spending, examining programs and services strategically instead of implementing hasty across-the-board reductions, which fail to consider any resulting ramifications,” Gordon wrote.

Gordon vetoed a $5 increase in driver’s licenses and vehicle registration fees to update the state’s driver-records system.

“This provision legislates from within the budget, and even for a project I wholeheartedly support I am impelled to exercise my veto authority,” Gordon wrote.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation should use its own funds to work on updating the system for the time being, he wrote.

Another veto involved an effort to raise more money to cremate and bury people without survivors able to cover those expenses, which Gordon said was noble but needed to be enacted through separate legislation.

Other areas vetoed would study hospital viability, which Gordon said had already been done, and require the governor to review salary increases for certain executive-branch positions, which Gordon said overstepped his authority as governor.

The budget bill capped a session in which bills not directly related to the state budget needed a two-thirds vote to be introduced.

Lawmakers despite the hurdle passed and Gordon signed bills and resolutions that among other things would:

— Establish a 5% lodging tax to fund tourism promotion;

— Provide $1 million for a “coal marketing program” to protect Wyoming’s dwindling coal industry through a public-relations campaign;

— Keep University of Wyoming tuition at in-state levels for children and spouses of active-duty military who get transferred out of state;

— Call on Congress to help improve reporting and investigation of crimes involving missing and murdered Native Americans.

A bill that would shift collection of local taxes on coal, oil, gas and uranium extraction to a monthly basis, instead of as much as 18 months later, awaited Gordon’s signature after legislative approval.

Measures that failed to pass during the session included abolition of the death penalty, expansion of the federal Medicaid program in the state, imposing tolls on Interstate 80 and a proposal to ban crossover voting, or changing party affiliation at the polls on primary day.

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Follow Mead Gruver at https://twitter.com/meadgruver