Green River Star -

Our View: Tax code needs to be addressed

 


As the campaign season heats up throughout the summer, candidates are talking more about how they would work within the office they’re elected to.

For many candidates seeking election as the next governor of Wyoming, this has inevitably led to discussions about the state’s economy and spending.

We’re disheartened to see the Republican candidates continuing to talk about the importance of belt tightening without discussion of widening the tax base to support services provided by the state.

We’re not arguing against fiscal responsibility. Being responsible and frugal with state funds should be one of the most important goals any politician can have. However, trimming the fat from state budgets can only go so far without cutting into the meat of the services provided by the state. Just as well, measures funding state government through reserves can only go on for so long before those reserves are depleted.

The state is funded primarily through mineral extraction. However, the minerals industry traditionally has a boom-bust nature where the market ultimately determines how much money the state receives. This root problem is the cause for the intense debates focused on education spending in Wyoming and other fiscal issues that have cropped up since the end of the oil and gas boom.

A recent study for the Joint Revenues Committee states Wyoming’s tax code isn’t suited to capitalize on new economic activity occurring within the state. However, most candidates, with the exception of Democrat Mary Throne, have shied away from discussing diversifying the tax code to have other industries fund the state.

Ignoring the tax code will be a problematic decision for whomever gets elected. While it can be argued that changes to how the state taxes industries operating within its boundaries could hinder development of new business, creating an atmosphere where those businesses take advantage of Wyoming’s low tax environment without paying a portion of their profits back to the state will only result in decreased public services and possibly create a situation where businesses take advantage of the state’s infrastructure. Schools will continue to grapple with balancing a budget on lowered revenues and maintenance on publically-funded infrastructure will decrease, resulting in deterioration.

These candidates have to realize the revenue issue is something to address. The next governor will likely have tough decisions to make, and voters should support a candidate willing to tackle those hard choices, not just tell voters across the Cowboy State what they want to hear.

 

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