Case says all education funding options must be reviewed

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By Cowboy State Daily

A proposed statewide property tax increase to raise money for the state’s schools must be one option reviewed by the Legislature as it tries to figure out the best way to fund education, according to the head of the Senate’s Revenue Committee.

Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, said Tuesday that all options, including the property tax increase proposed in House Bill 68, should be on the table as the Legislature works to solve problems with education funding.

The bill proposes raising property taxes by 9 mills, or $9 per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value, for use in funding education. The increase would take place over three years, with 3 mills being added every year in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

The tax increase could raise $70 million for schools, Case said, the same that might also be generated by boosting taxes on wind energy generated in Wyoming, an option he said might be more palatable to Wyoming’s residents.

“(If you) shift 90 percent of that tax to people in other states, that’s the win,” he said after the Legislature opened its 65th general session Tuesday.However, another veteran legislator, Sen. Hank Coe, chair of the Senate Education Committee, said he does not see much support for the property tax measure.

“Because property tax hits home through local ad valorem taxes and the mineral industry takes a hit there,” he said. “They also pay severance taxes to the state. So it’s a double hit for the mineral industry.”

HB 68 is one of almost 170 pieces of legislation awaiting action as the Legislature opens the first week of its session.

The House and Senate introduced about 30 bills during their first day of work and referred them to committees for further review.

The introduction of bills will continue Wednesday after Gov. Mark Gordon gives his first state-of-the-state address.