In case you are still in doubt whether or not we need a statewide effort to educate Wyoming taxpayers, here is an account of what transpired at the Revenue Committee last month, courtesy of courtesy of the Casper Star Tribune. Pay attention to two things - the number of tax hikes proposed, and the attitude behind those proposals:
Municipal governments in Wyoming stand to lose more than $100 million in direct funding to offset anticipated shortfalls in the education budget. With that reality looming, the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee met two weeks ago in Buffalo to discuss a number of new ways to provide funding to cities, towns and counties.
Here we have the first attitudinal problem. The tax hikers are still running amok without any pushback, treating government finances as if there is nothing wrong with the spending side.
As an example of what this attitude leads to, the Tribune also reported that the Revenue committee considered a bill allowing counties, cities and towns "greater freedom" in how much they tax us. But, the Tribune explained:
Critics said the plan — while offering much-desired flexibility for cities and towns — was flawed because it would disproportionately benefit large cities and towns and would not serve as a true replacement for the state’s direct funding. Their argument: a large town with lots of tourists or strong retail can generate revenue small towns with no retail or visitor traffic can’t, thereby creating a system where there are winners and losers.
Can you see the direction in which this is going? A tax that is not dependent on "retail or visitor traffic"...
The Wyoming County Commissioners Association (WCCA) did not suggest a corporate income tax - that was already on the Revenue Committee's agenda under a separate item - but they did offer other ideas for higher taxes. The Tribune again:
Option A would allocate an increased amount of what the state already collects in sales tax revenues to cities and counties, ensuring local governments get to retain more of the tax revenues raised there. At the same time, it would raise the statewide sales tax from 4 percent to 4.25 percent.
And here comes the second expression of the tax hikers' attitude toward us the taxpayers:
While largely benefitting communities with high sales tax revenues, this option would provide some municipalities a real replacement to direct aid without increasing taxes: In total, a 3 percent boost to the local share of statewide sales tax, combined with a quarter percent increase in state tax, would net municipal governments approximately $61 million over the next two years, while counties would see an increase of roughly $21 million. If paired with slight increases to residential, commercial and industrial property taxes of a quarter of a percent, this proposal would create $90.3 million in new revenues for cities, towns and counties over two years
Did you catch that? It is now perfectly fine to suggest that a proposal to raise the statewide sales tax from 4 to 4.25 percent and to increase property taxes, is a proposal to raise more tax revenue without raising taxes.
There is more arrogance on display, but first - a couple of more tax hikes... Back to the Tribune:
Option B would implement a larger splitting of the sales tax revenues (a 4 percent increase for local governments) as well as reinstating a 4 percent sales tax on groceries, a prospect that has been a politically tricky area over the years.
And now for the final touch of disregard for taxpayers:
Option C would raise the state severance cap — a statutorily created cap that now directs the first $155 million in taxes paid by mineral companies to seven different agencies including cities, towns and counties — to $200 million. It also raises the sales tax split to a 36 percent share for local governments and adds a 2 percent sales tax on food. ... The state could — if it chooses to — make up for some of the shortfalls by implementing other revenue options, each of which have their own pitfalls. These include ... increasing the statewide sales tax to 4.85 percent ... and imposing a statewide lodging tax, one of the few revenue options with no victims
No victims. Try that again. No victims. According to the WCCA, as reported by the Tribune, if you go from Rock Springs to Casper to attend a convention, and you spend a couple of nights at a local hotel, you are not a victim of the statewide lodging tax. If your kid is getting married and guests check in at a hotel in town, they are not victims of the tax on their hotel rooms.
The only reason why people can have this attitude is that they meet no resistance out there. They meet no resistance because taxpayers in Wyoming are not hearing the counter arguments.
Help me educate Wyoming taxpayers. Help me start The Wyoming Center for Political Economy. This is the last line of defense for our state's taxpayers. If this fails, there will be no resistance when the legislature starts raising your taxes.