Our View: The 6th-penny push
August 29, 2019
While our readers might be getting tired of reading about a push for a new sixth-penny tax initiative in 2020, one important question we should all ask ourselves is this: how much is too much?
During a special meeting at the Sweetwater County Events Complex Tuesday evening, a total of $230 million in projects was presented and discussed by members of local governments and groups. In 2012, voters approved approximately $81 million in sixth-penny projects. Those projects were funded through special tax bonds, which the tax itself paid off over a duration of about six years. The amount proposed could take 12.7 years to pay off the proposed 2020 funding amount, possibly longer. Are voters willing to pay a 6-percent sales tax on their purchased goods for that amount of time? This is a question that likely won’t be answered until the 2020 General Election.
The tax is a good tax. Throughout Green River, we can see examples of infrastructure maintenance and improvements made through sixth-penny funding. Yet, it isn’t hard to remember the tax being proposed as a temporary measure at a time when the state, reaping the benefits of a booming oil-and-gas economy in Southwest Wyoming, wouldn’t provide the funding Sweetwater County communities needed to address the impacts from that boom. While the boom is long gone and the circumstances have changed, the fact remains municipal governments especially are underfunded to maintain what they have, let alone make needed improvements to basic services when needed.
As the Wyoming Legislature grapples with funding problems through “belt tightening” and continues to eye education funding cuts, it’s safe to say we can’t rely on state government to help address those funding needs. We have to do it ourselves.
In that respect, another question arises: should we grit our teeth and find a way make it a permanent tax? Wyoming remains a state with the lowest tax rates in the country and a 1 percent sales tax, individually speaking, doesn’t amount to much. But, any tax impacts people who live off of a low income the most and a small sales tax increase can drastically affect budgets where money is tight.
There isn’t a perfect solution to the funding problem. Any revenue generation means people will end up paying more for the services provided by our municipal and county governments.
One small benefit of the tax is the fact visitors to the area pay it too, which itself is a reason why we should find ways to boost tourism to the county. However, if we don’t want to see our roads and facilities deteriorate, we’re going to have to pitch in and pay a little more to ensure their upkeep.