Former Rep. Mike Madden of Johnson County has said it for years. Last summer, a senior economist with the economic forecasting firm REMI, provided the Legislature’s Revenue Committee with an analysis that suggested new industries could drag down Wyoming’s economy unless the state changes its tax structure. We must stop avoiding the difficult decisions.
Wyoming has long earned the bulk of its revenue from taxes on energy extraction, and therefore didn’t assess taxes on other sectors. As the state now seeks to diversify its economy and bring in industries like light manufacturing or technology, it must adjust its tax structure or cut services to its residents.
With coal companies struggling — more so now, it seems, than in past boom and bust cycles — the future looks bleak.
New businesses — officials hope — mean new people moving to Wyoming. It means a growth of the economy, the job market and housing market. But those new people also mean an increasing demand for public services — like schools and infrastructure — which cost money. The taxes on businesses and people must at least match the cost to provide the services demanded.
If legislators continue to refuse consideration of new revenue sources while simultaneously avoiding the painful cuts required, Wyoming will go from one of the most fiscally sound states in the country to the ranks of those who cannot pay all of their bills.
Leadership requires making decisions that may prove unpopular. It requires decisive action to benefit the greater good.
Legislators must stop playing politics and start putting their money where their mouths are — make the cuts or find additional revenue. Vague statements of support or dissent no longer suffice. There’s no time for that.