Wyoming Liberty Group
Halloween has passed, but it seems zombie bills come back again. One example is Representative Byrd’s Abandoned Buildings bill from the Wyoming Legislature’s 2015 General Session. The abandoned buildings bill was a direct attack on owners of historic buildings in downtown Cheyenne who have struggled for years to find profitable tenants to fill their buildings. The House Corporations Committee rightly killed the bill last session, but like all good zombies, it came back again.
It is not a wonder the state is chugging towards the fiscal cliff with $300 million boondoggles like the Capitol renovation project riding the runaway train. With the final design still not approved and wild accusations flying around the committee room, this done deal is a good example of monument building destined to leave a legacy of debt and higher taxes for our children and grandchildren.
With mineral tax revenue plummeting, the Wyoming government is madly conjuring up schemes to keep spending at all time highs. One boondoggle approved during the 2015 legislative session involves borrowing money to build a coal terminal on the West Coast to support Wyoming coal exports to Asia. But if the private sector is dropping out of these projects, perhaps forcing the people of Wyoming to go into debt to fund them is a bad idea. Here’s a thought; instead of dreaming up revenue generating schemes with little chance of success, Wyoming’s government should bring spending down to a level the people can afford to fund.
In Governor Mead’s 2015 supplemental budget, the governor called on the legislature to set up a reserve account for an industrial park, and the legislature complied with a $5 million appropriation. The idea comes from the Industrial Heartland in Alberta, Canada, an industrial park funded by the provincial and various local governments to attract oil and gas companies to the province. Although the governor has waxed eloquent on the Alberta government’s use of tax dollars to attract value-added oil and gas activity to the province to create jobs, the Industrial Heartland is but one example of a project financed by a government that lost its way, and has now paid the price at the polls.
Throughout the debate to expand Medicaid during the 2015 Legislative Session, opponents repeatedly claimed that the federal government couldn’t be trusted to keep its promise to cover 90 percent of Medicaid Expansion’s costs. So it should come as no surprise that the Obama Administration has now broached the idea of reneging on its existing financial promises. In a letter to the Deputy Secretary of Medicaid in Florida, the head of the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (or CMS) threatened to withhold funding to a Medicaid pilot program in the Sunshine State unless it expanded Medicaid. If successful, the federal government would have found a way to undermine the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision on Medicaid Expansion and foist a federal program that delivers woefully inferior healthcare onto millions more patients.
Have you ever wondered whether government should buy coal or natural gas, convert it to a higher valued product and then sell that product in the open market? If this sounds like a bad idea to you, you’d be right. Private companies have already invested their own money in this type of scheme and lost big. It is unlikely government would do better with your money. However, that is exactly what the Wyoming government is about to do.
The 2015 legislative session created a number of measures that put taxpayers into the risky business of supporting some private companies. It also, in contrast, set up the Minerals Tax Task Force that could turn this corporate welfare trend around. The job of the task force is to study and make recommendations for a fair, viable and simplified system of valuation and taxation for minerals. A lower, simpler tax system that treats each taxpayer equitably is preferable to government picking winners for special handouts while making losers out of taxpayers.