Sundance Times - Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

Our View


March 21, 2019

Solving a complex problem is impossible without all the parts laid out on the table, in plain view. Considering we’ve all been under the impression that the bad times are coming to an end for the state’s rainy day fund, we’ve heard a surprising amount of fiscal discussion over the past couple of weeks.

Consider, for example, Representative Tyler Lindholm’s words. We have been successful in shoring up the state budget using capital gains, he said in the March 7 issue, but what this actually boils down to is relying on a new unstable income source to replace the partial loss of an old unstable income source.

In last week’s issue, we ran an article discussing Mayor Paul Brooks’ thoughts on Sundance’s financial future. There’s simply no extra money to be had from the state, he says; not even to make up for inflation. Because of this, he feels it’s time to look for efficiencies in the city’s budget.

Meanwhile, the latest legislative session came to a close with every bill for a potential new tax ripped up and thrown to the floor and the issue of school funding still hanging.

But the most interesting comment we’ve heard, and the one that got us thinking, was from Representative Lindholm: “We call ourselves conservatives; well, conservatives pay our bills.”

He’s right. The way we have always understood it, to be a conservative means to stand on one’s own two feet, contribute to society and earn our own livings. It is to be fully independent and not reliant on support from sources other than our own hard work.

But as a state that has for many years relied on tax income from the energy industry, we can’t really claim to have been conservative down to the bone. In fact, we have each, as individuals, reaped significant benefits from this income that most of us had no hand in earning. It has paid for our schools, our roads, our government agencies – all the things that make living in Wyoming possible.

We will admit that the idea of new taxes is not in any way appealing, but we do have a request to make. As citizens of this state, we need to open our minds to all the possibilities, not just the ones we like the thought of.

The time has come and gone to think seriously about our financial future. It has become clear not only that we cannot place all our eggs in the basket of the energy industry, but that we currently have precious few alternatives and we’re running out of corners to cut.

We agree with Representative Lindholm that the best path forward is one that considers all possible alternatives. He mentioned that the Legislature must continue to look for surgical cuts and seek to diversify the economy. We feel it necessary, however grudgingly, to point out that taxes are the missing spoke on that wheel (though we know our state representative may disagree).

We need to look at the fullest possible picture and reconsider what it means to be a conservative state. “Tax” may be a rightfully dirty word around here, but not all taxes are created equal. A property or income tax is very different, for example, to asking large corporations to pay the same tax in Wyoming that they pay in 48 other states.

Relying on the energy industry to pay our way is not what conservatives should be doing and we can’t keep cutting our way out of this mess forever.

We need to apply our collective brain to fostering new business and industries in our great state and establishing a stable income flow. We need to accept that certain taxes may contribute to this goal.

Those are the components of the big picture. We might not like them, but facts are facts.

Until we accept these facts as citizens, our state representatives will not feel able to embrace them. They will continue to block their ears whenever the hot topic of taxes comes up, even if that means dismissing a large corporations tax that our consumers are paying anyway whenever they make a purchase, but is going to those 48 other states instead of our own.

Why? Because the corporations spread out the tax burden evenly in order to keep prices the same in every store.

We are thus paying the bills for other states instead of our own. This is something we could fix, but only if we make the collective decision to look at the big picture dispassionately.

Even Lindholm, a “hard no” on new taxes, supported the corporate tax. As we said, not all taxes are created equal. As a state, we have been hell-bent on making sure not a single tax gets through and it seems we’ve thrown a few babies out with the bathwater.

We don’t like the idea of taxes any more than you do, but there is a danger in batching up anything that falls into the category of “tax” and dismissing it. Cutting a whole category of possible income could mean missing a lightbulb moment that brings the big picture together and sets the right path towards our financial future.

After all, we trust our legislators to drive all the way to Cheyenne each January all by themselves without worrying they will lose their minds and end up in California. We are sure that we can trust them to take a similarly reasonable and substantive approach to our state’s revenue streams.


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