Sundance Times - Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

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March 7, 2019



Anyone who may have doubted Governor Mark Gordon’s conservative chops will have been delighted to read his letter to the legislative body last week. Before signing the supplemental budget, he took the opportunity to take a wire brush to the bill and clean out what he perceived as erosions of proper process, overreaches and plain old mistakes.

Three things in particular stood out to us: first, that he took this stand at the very beginning of his first term of office, showing adherence to the promises he laid out in his campaign. Second, that he cleaned up one small corner of the government at the first available opportunity, “draining the swamp” of the flotsam and jetsam that inevitably attaches to the legislative process as the years go by.

Third, that he did so without apportioning blame or casting aspersions. What he said was: there’s a problem, it should be fixed and here’s how we can do that – which is exactly as it ought to be.

Governor Gordon noted in his letter to the legislature that there “may be elements of recent custom reflected in this budget that are potentially at odds with the more prescribed nature of Wyoming’s Constitution”. Translation: Hey you guys, I think we’ve been doing this wrong.

He then addressed provisions added to budget bills that appear to extend beyond “appropriations for the ordinary expenses” of government. These, he said, have the ultimate effect of creating law through footnotes. Translation: if we’re going to make new laws, we can’t just staple them to the bottom of other laws – each one needs to be considered separately.

Governor Gordon went on to note that the bill contains language that directs him to either request or not request specific funds in future budget cycles. “Taken literally, these directives could be construed to foreclose the governor from using his or her office’s constitutional authority to ‘recommend such measures as he shall deem expedient’.”

Translation: somewhere along the line, words have snuck into these bills that make it sound like you’re telling the governor what he can and can’t do, and you’re not allowed to do that.

“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,” Gordon said in his letter.

He also took action to veto 29 footnotes with provisions that were neither related to nor embracing of a specific appropriation, saying they should be placed in single-subject bills rather than the budget.

Perhaps summarizing the intent behind the letter, Gordon included these words: “I intend to have strong cooperation between our branches of government. That makes for good and transparent government.”

It would be difficult to find fault with Governor Gordon’s actions. Though the House still had authority to override – and did so in two instances involving the elimination of two positions in the State Engineer’s Office and one footnote – our new governor exercised his authority to its maximum degree with the best intentions of the state and its governing body in mind.

All of this while also offering praise to legislators for setting a “deft” fiscal path while thinking ahead with funding for such things as the carbon capture pilot project and a new position to support local governments in applying for grants.

At a time in national politics when we can’t seem to solve disagreements without throwing blame, and civilized conversation is a dying art form, our new governor’s actions stand out more starkly than they otherwise would. On the other hand, we should not let that erode our sense of pride.

Here in Wyoming, we still have a governing body capable of honest, considered words and actions that make forward momentum possible. If his actions regarding the budget are any indication, Governor Gordon will be carrying that flag from the front for at least the next four years.

 
 

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