We have had a structural deficit and dipped into savings for years now. We’ve all said, ‘We’ve got to fix it,’ and we haven’t.
– Senator Cale Case (R – Lander) 2018
For 35 years, Wyomingites have all agreed our revenue structure is broken. It inhibits our economic growth. It creates an unstable environment unfriendly to business. The burden of the taxes paid by individuals lands hardest on the poorest.
Ignoring the problem has brought the state to crisis.
The first tenet of the Code of the West states we should live each day with courage. That means the courage to do the right thing, even when it’s the hard thing. I stand ready to do the hard thing.
Now we need Republicans to come to the table. There are no easy fixes. We cannot tax our way out of the hole the Legislature has spent my lifetime digging for us. We can’t cut our way out of this hole either. I pledge to be the first at that table to engage in meaningful Wyoming revenue structure reform but to also ensure that any talk of new revenues does not overburden the low- and moderate-income taxpayers of Wyoming.
Proposals like taxing groceries or increasing the sales tax are examples of policies that hurt low-income families the most.
The bottom 20% of earners in Wyoming – our service staff, receptionists, shift workers and delivery drivers – spend 9.6% of their income on taxes. Meanwhile, the top 1% only pay 2.6% of their income to maintain the government services and infrastructure they depend on.
Our revenue structure, no matter the approach we take, should be fairer than asking those with the fewest means to pay nearly 4X as much of their income to maintain the highways, hospitals, police and sanitation we all rely on in Wyoming.
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy declared Wyoming’s tax policy the least fair to low-income workers in the entire country.
But it goes beyond fairness about who pays how much. Wyoming’s revenue structure actively harms any attempts to improve our economy.
Above all, the private industry seeks stability. Wyoming’s revenue structure ensures volatility.
Our antiquated revenue structure ensures that those companies who do relocate to Wyoming cost the state more than they return in revenue.
My opponent knows this better than anybody. The Legislature commissioned a study explaining that our revenue structure ensured any business that moved to or expanded in Wyoming that was not in the oil, gas, coal or minerals industry actively impoverished the state. That’s because the cost created by new workers and their families – on infrastructure, in classrooms and in hospitals – wasn’t matched by revenue from bringing those jobs to the state.
It is going to require a blend of incremental, fair, common sense new revenues and likely painful cuts to see Wyoming through to a brighter future.
It’s also going to take state representatives with the courage to do the right thing, even when it’s the hard thing.