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Wyoming governor vetoes portions of budget bill

Ben Neary, Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead on Thursday vetoed some sections of the supplemental budget bill the state Legislature approved last week, striking language that would require state agencies to spell out a range of possible future budget cuts.

Lawmakers must now decide whether to try to override Mead's vetoes.

Mead vetoed bill language would have required most state agencies to propose budget reductions of 4, 6 and 8 percent for each year of the 2015-16 biennium. He also vetoed provisions that would have required the Wyoming Department of Health and the state judiciary to propose lesser cuts.

In his message to legislative leaders, Mead said he objected to requiring state agencies to prepare detailed plans for spending cuts in advance of revenue projections from state financial analysts.

"Rather than increasing government efficiency, they make for considerable work and eat into time and resources which could be put to other use," Mead said of the prospect of crafting the budget cuts.

Wyoming's general fund revenues rely heavily on taxes on mineral production. Current projections call for them to rise from an estimated $1 billion in fiscal year 2013 to only $1.1 billion by fiscal year 2018.

Mead noted that the Legislature last year asked state agencies to prepare for 4-percent budget cuts while the supplemental budget the Legislature ultimately approved last week calls for 6.5-percent cuts.

The supplemental budget calls for spending roughly an additional $78 million on top of the $3.2 billion state funds budget lawmakers approved last year for the biennium that runs through mid-2014. The $78-million increase is mainly for one-time project spending after accounting for $61 million in state agency budget reductions.

Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. He said Thursday he believes that specifying particular budget cuts gets the Legislature more involved in the budget process.

"I think it gives everybody more knowledge really of the agencies and the budgets," Harshman said. He said requiring budget cuts won't create much more work for state agencies because directors know where to cut.

Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He said Thursday he also supports requiring state agencies to prepare for the budget cuts.

"I think we've got to be responsible in the way government grows, and I think we're making a mistake by not asking the agencies to come back with some reductions," Bebout said.

Mead vetoed other language in the budget bill limiting state spending on wildfires.

The Legislature approved $32 million for fires and gave Mead authority to pull another $5 million from a landfill fund if necessary. Mead's action would allow the state to spend $60 million, drawing all the additional money from the landfill fund.

Mead stated Thursday that he wants the state to be prepared for what promises to be a severe fire season this year. The state spent roughly $45 million last year on fires and had to dip into other funds to do it.

Harshman and Bebout said no one knows what sort of fire season the state will experience and said Mead has flexibility under the budget the Legislature passed to cover fire expenses from other funds.

Mead also vetoed technical language concerning state funds management.

Mead struck language in the budget bill that would require sweeping any excess operating funds into a reserve fund at the end of fiscal year 2013. The governor said the money should stay in operating funds in case the second year of the state's two-year funding cycle proves to be a bad one for state revenues.