We have a very important day coming up: Aug. 18 is our Primary Election. We have a number of candidates running on the platform of “no new taxes.” No new taxes is a …
We have a very important day coming up: Aug. 18 is our Primary Election. We have a number of candidates running on the platform of “no new taxes.” No new taxes is a popular thing to say — no one wants taxes raised. But if we elect the hard-line “no new taxes” slate of candidates on Aug. 18, we’ll set the State of Wyoming on a path to failure.
At the candidate forum I heard candidates state that they “are optimistic” or “are hopeful” that the Wyoming economy will turn around and we won’t need to address revenue. The data shows that this is betting on something that, while possible, is extremely unlikely. It is not popular to talk about it during an election, but we have to elect leaders that are willing to look at the data and have the courage, wisdom and experience to deal with the problem rather than “hope” it goes away.
The nation’s use of coal has dropped nearly 30% in the last 12 years. It is expected to drop another 20-30% in the next decade. Coal is not coming back. Oil may rebound a bit here and there, but our nation’s reliance on oil is going to continue to decrease. How many hybrid or electric cars do you see today versus 10 years ago?
Wyoming’s current tax structure is extremely dependent on production of coal, oil and gas. Severance tax and federal mineral royalties together make up about 38% of our budget — all tied to mineral production. About 30% of our budget is made up of sales and use taxes. What people often don’t realize is about two-thirds of that amount is paid for by energy companies, not the average tax payer. Further, about 25% of our budget comes from returns on investments — monies which were able to be invested because of taxes on mineral development.
The numbers don’t lie. Our tax structure is designed to place two-thirds of our budget needs on mineral extraction. The revenue just will not be there in the future. It is imperative that this be remedied this next legislative cycle.
In Wyoming, the average household of three pays in about $3,200 in taxes but receives about $27,000 in services. Many will say we need to cut the fat in services, but if you look at national trends, it isn’t the services that are out of whack — it is that we pay in far less than average as individuals.
So, the next argument is “well, maybe everyone just needs to feel the pain” of reduced or eliminated services. My counter to that is that if we want to protect and preserve our Wyoming way of life so that our children can make a living here or want to live here, then we have to maintain what we have. If we allow our economy, culture and infrastructure to crumble for lack of funding, my fear is that we will pass the point of no return — damaging the positive aspects of our state to the point that we will never recover.
Then there are those that say “well, we will just have to pay out of our savings”. The Rainy Day Fund (LRSA) is as good as spent in this next biennium; it will be depleted. And our other savings are in trusts that cannot be accessed. So that doesn’t plug the gap either.
We need to elect those who understand what we are up against, who are willing to admit it and are ready to do the dirty work needed to fix it. I heard candidates Dave Northrup and Sandy Newsome, both veterans in the legislature, say they acknowledge the problem and are ready to take it on. These are the type of candidates we need to represent us. Other candidates seemed to only commit their “hope” to you as citizens of this great State. I will take dealing with reality and action over hope any day.
Please give some critical thought to who you choose on Aug. 18.