Legislator Calls Gordon Veto Of Wheatland Water Tower ‘Vindictive,’ ‘Reckless’

State Rep. Jeremy Haroldson says Gov. Mark Gordon was “vindictive” and “reckless” in vetoing $2 million to help replace a failing water tower in Wheatland.

Leo Wolfson

March 26, 20245 min read

Town of Wheatland officials say they're worried about the destruction that could happen to nearby property if this badly leading 1 million-gallon water tower fully fails.
Town of Wheatland officials say they're worried about the destruction that could happen to nearby property if this badly leading 1 million-gallon water tower fully fails. (Town of Wheatland)

State Rep. Jeremy Haroldson, R-Wheatland, says it’s likely Gov. Mark Gordon violated the U.S. Constitution with a “reckless” and “vindictive” veto of $2 million to help replace a failing water tower in his town.

“The governor issued a line-item veto to remove funding for an aging water tower in my home of Wheatland — a water tower that is in such poor shape, it could breach at any moment, destroying 10 or more city blocks in its wake,” Haroldson wrote in a Monday op-ed. “Within the area of this aging tower are countless homes, churches, a nursing home, a school and more.”

Haroldson went on to write that he believes the governor’s move was “reckless,” “vindictive” and “likely unconstitutional.”

That last barb stems from the fact the governor specifically said in his veto letter that he was following Haroldson’s lead in taking the action he did, as the legislator voted against the budget that contained the spending measure.

“Following the lead of local legislators who voted against the budget, thereby indicating their regard for the inclusion of this project in their budget, I have removed the provision,” Gordon wrote.

Gordon took a similar action against building a recreation center in Riverton, vetoing $2.5 million for the project because one its leading proponents, Sen. Tim Salazar, R-Riverton, similarly voted against the budget.

“The principal sponsor of this provision did not sponsor the final budget and, therefore, I must assume his enthusiasm for it must have waned,” Gordon wrote.

Gordon also said he removed the rec center money as he saw it as unrelated to the ordinary expenses of Wyoming state government. In contrast to the water tower that was to be paid for with federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, the money for this project was going to be paid for with Office of State Lands and Investments money.


Haroldson believes Gordon is committing punishment by appropriation.

The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says no state shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Haroldson said Gordon is singling out Wheatland because he voted against the budget, a move he asserts likely violates the Constitution.

“I am personally disappointed that our governor would stoop to this kind of action,” Haroldson wrote. “At the end of the day, this personally targeted veto is far from funny; it is a life-threatening, unconstitutional move.”

Gillette attorney and former House Speaker Tom Lubnau disagrees that Gordon’s move was unconstitutional and said there is always a cause and reaction to all political actions.

“If Haroldson voted against the budget, wouldn’t he be getting what he asked for?” Lubnau questioned. “He’s trying to blow hot and cold on the issue.”

Lubnau also cited Article 1, Section 34 of the Wyoming Constitution, which states that all laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation.

“An appropriation is not a law of general nature, nor is an appropriation to a water tower in Wheatland,” Lubnau said. “The governor has the discretion to line-item veto things out of a budget bill.”

Back To Wheatland

In January, the State Loan and Investment Board approved a $1.6 million emergency mineral royalty grant to Wheatland to start the process of replacing its failing 1 million-gallon water tank. Haroldson had also voted against adding $6.1 million to the mineral royalty grants program during the 2023 legislative session.

The $1.6 million awarded was substantially less than the $7.5 million that the town had requested and will cause Wheatland to be dependent on wells while it seeks out other sources of money and credit to build the new tank.

“While these (grants) were insufficient to effect these complete repairs, they have provided something of a bridge for the town,” Gordon wrote.

In his veto letter, Gordon also complained that the water tank appropriation is another example of legislators trying to solve problems in the budget that should be dealt with through the creation of standalone legislation.


Haroldson said many people come to broad, sweeping conclusions about legislators like himself when they oppose aspects of the budget.

“Tell a liberal you favor lower taxes, and they’ll respond by asking you if you want to go without paved roads, running sewers and other critical infrastructure,” he wrote. “This is a baseless argument. Everyone wants basic public goods and services to be well-funded and functional. That’s why I’ll always support funding the constitutional and necessary functions of government.”

Haroldson and most of his fellow members of the Wyoming Freedom Caucus voted against the biennial budget at every stage.

What Haroldson said he can’t swallow is a 30% increase to Wyoming government spending over the past five years. Many have argued this spending is in line with inflationary pressures.

“Our state government has become so detached from reality that it believed it could save and spend better than the people can,” he wrote.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at leo@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter