Green River Star -

Our View: Hold off on a 7th penny tax

 


For a brief moment Tuesday, there was mention of an additional penny tax during the Sweetwater County Commissioners meeting.

Legally, it’s possible. A county can levy up to 3 percent in local sales taxes. We’re already at 2 percent, with what’s become known as the Optional Fifth Penny, a general use tax, and the sixth penny tax, which is levied for specific purposes. The brief discussion about a seventh penny tax involved in being used as a way to fund Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County’s ambulatory surgery center and a new facility for hospice care.

While we’re in favor of a dedicated hospice facility and of the hospital’s ambulatory surgery center, we’re also in favor of a funding mechanism that doesn’t add another cent to our sales tax.

Admittedly, Wyoming has some of the lowest taxes in the country. The state takes a 4 percent sales tax on non-grocery items. Even if the state legislature decided to re-instate a sales tax on groceries, 4 percent is still lower than what nearby states with the exception of Montana, due to the state not having a base sales tax, and Colorado, which levies a 2.9 percent state tax. However, for Colorado, the tax rate can be as high as 10.4 percent, depending on how individual municipalities tax themselves.

Even at 7 percent, the sales taxes are not that high. But, what’s worrisome is how quickly some politicians are willing to turn to the well of public taxation for project funding. Wyoming is currently in an economic downturn as a result of a shrinking oil and gas industry and Sweetwater County is experiencing a slow, outward migration and those workers leave to find work elsewhere. These are not the conditions we should be talking about an additional sales tax.

Another concern we have is if a seventh penny tax is created, the tax would become a permanent tax. This is what has happened with the sixth penny, specific use sales tax. Initially, the sixth penny was touted as a tax needed to make necessary infrastructure improvements during the energy boom. In the last decade, voters have been approached multiple times to fund both infrastructure improvements and new construction. It’s gotten to the point where talk of more improvements begin to pick up once the bonds associated with the tax are paid.

We’re at a point where we should consider cutting back, especially with new construction. We think local governments should think twice before thinking about a new tax, especially considering the economic conditions in Sweetwater County.

 

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