Wyoming Liberty Group
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.
- Wyoming needs more than budget trickery
The Consensus Revenue Estimating Group (CREG) released its April 2015 update, and the situation is not rosy. The update shows Wyoming state tax revenue collected between July 1, 2014 and March 2015, and how the revenue collection differed from expectations. It also includes what we can hope for the future. While revenue collections are for the most part slightly ahead of expectations, dark clouds are forming on the horizon.
Wyoming’s State Capitol renovation project is in trouble, and spin won’t fix it. That’s why a $200,000, three-year communications contract to a well-known Cheyenne firm to sell the project raised a few eyebrows. Legislators questioned whether the project should even go ahead, as the design itself is a long way from finalized. With budget deficits and funding uncertainty, is it right to spend money on propaganda for a project with problems no communications plan could fix?
Ever since Congress passed Obamacare in 2010, each April 15, the dreaded tax return filing day, brings ever more complexity to our federal tax code. This year’s complexity is the employer mandate, the most harmful of the law’s tax provisions because it spells trouble for businesses and workers alike. If the Supreme Court sides with the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, the mandate becomes a lot harder to enforce and could free states from its distortions entirely.
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.
Ever since David King sued the federal government for illegally subsidizing health insurance payments on federal exchanges, governors in states with federal exchanges have scrambled to make contingency plans. Reactions ranged from Bobby Jindal of Louisiana consulting Congressional leaders on passing an alternative to Obamacare, to Governor Snyder of Michigan demanding his state’s legislature create a state-run insurance exchange in order to continue receiving federal insurance support. Fortunately, Congress is crafting contingency plans to offer immediate relief for millions of individuals currently receiving subsidies. These Congressional plans would grant states flexibility to determine the best insurance policies for their residents. This is an opportunity for Wyoming to make substantial health insurance reforms that lower premiums and expand coverage.