Wyoming Liberty Group
- The taxpayer gouging must stop
The Cheyenne City and Laramie County councils are not working in the best interest of the citizens who voted them into office to represent them.
Members of both councils want to fund pay increases to government workers by continuing to pick taxpayers’ pockets while ignoring other options such as privatizing or contracting out poorly run government programs.
Government budget time at both the City of Cheyenne and Laramie County show just what their priority is – pay hikes for government workers. City and county councilors sure are generous with other peoples’ money!
The City’s pay hike proposal would cost taxpayers about $615,000 and the County’s about $1.7 million. These proposals come with some controversy. The Cheyenne City council’s 2014 budget was rejected primarily because of a disagreement on the form of the employee pay hike. The County budget pay hike priority only came to light after the information was leaked by a concerned county councilor.
Bureaucrats at the Game and Fish department continue to ward off calls for budget cuts.
During a Travel, Recreation and Wildlife (TRW) committee meeting earlier this month, the department came on like a public-relations juggernaut with a 100-slide PowerPoint presentation apparently intended to convey all the wonderful things Game and Fish does on behalf of all wildlife and all people in all Wyoming.
Tourism is a lucrative industry that employs lots of people. Chris Brown, the executive director of the Wyoming Travel Industry Coalition, claims that if the government stops funding tourism advertising, the industry will lose market share and the state will lose revenue and jobs. Advertising works to increase the demand for goods and services an industry provides, no disagreement there. However, who should pay for that industry’s advertising – Wyoming taxpayers or the industry itself?
One of the immediate lessons that our state legislators should learn from the federal government’s grab of some of our severance taxes is that the federal government is no longer a reliable fiscal partner for the state. Whether we are talking about severance taxes or Federal Aid to States, it is increasingly difficult to trust that the federal government is going to keep its promises and continue to provide us with money as promised.
• Time to park this baby
Governments everywhere promote tourism as though the attraction of tourists was a fundamental role of government. The Wyoming state government is no exception.
Without a doubt, tourism is an important sector for the Wyoming economy. According to the Wyoming Department of Tourism, visitors to the state spent $3.1 billion dollars and paid $128 million in state and local taxes, all of which supported 30,500 jobs in 2012.
Last week I explained that the U.S. Department of Interior is withholding 5.1 percent of the severance taxes that they owe Wyoming for 2013. Another two dozen states will also lose money, though with $53 million Wyoming is by far the biggest loser.
While $53 million is a drop in the bucket compared to total state spending, the legislature has proven that even small amounts like this can cause major problems when it is time for appropriations. The battle over the extra dime on the fuel tax is one example; the governor’s budget cut proposals another.