Wyoming Liberty Group
Mark your calendar: the legislature’s Select Investigative Committee will meet in room 302 in the Capitol at 1:00 PM this Wednesday, August 7th. The meeting will be open to the public, and will be streamed live from the legislature’s web site. For more information, including the agenda, see the Committee’s web page.
by Amy Edmonds, Sven Larson
Note: Commentary updated to reflect correction to the source of the April 25, 2013 Memorandum, published by the Legislative Service Office, not the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group as originally reported.
Recent employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that the private sector of the U.S. economy has increased its number of employees by 3.4 percent since 2011. This is weak for a recovery, and you would expect that a low-tax state like Wyoming could beat that.
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.
The 2013 General Session came to a rather abrupt close last Wednesday as the gavel fell and lawmakers cleared out their desks to head home. While the dust settles from the 36 day sojourn by legislators in the capitol city, many are searching this session’s artifacts like archeologists pouring over a new pictograph to uncover the message. Increasing taxes, talking about guns (or in the Senate’s case, not talking about guns), the lottery bill and an 80-page supplemental budget bill were all on the agenda.
Earlier this week I reported that Wyoming is experiencing major economic growth problems. In the bad recession years 2009-11 we were the only state that saw our state GDP fall two years in a row.
I also reported that our private sector is very reluctant to hire new workers. In 2012 there were almost 1,000 fewer private employees in Wyoming than in 2009.
On Monday (February 25) I reported that during the depth of the recession, Wyoming suffered from the weakest economic growth in the country. We are the only state that had two years back-to-back of shrinking state GDP during the 2009-11 period. While most states suffered one year of shrinking GDP, no other state came close to our tepid performance.
The 2013 General Session of the Wyoming Legislature winds down this week. Today is the final day for third reading of bills, marking the end of floor work and the beginning of a long and boring wait for lawmakers. The usual end-of-the-session lag of conference committee reports and concurrence votes signify the last hours of work before the session is adjourned, our part-time legislators spill out to head home, and the House and Senate chambers sit empty once again.