By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist
Our local paper – I live east of Cheyenne – wrote this in an editorial Sunday:
“We hate to treat our elected leaders like children, but…”
Children? That’s not the half of it, as the legislature lumbers into the final days of the budget session, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the For God’s Sake Raise Taxes Crowd is at full wail/gnash.
It isn’t enough to simply propose a state income tax. No, proponents must insist that anyone who disagrees is a child, a hopeless case, a denier of reality. Oppose Medicaid expansion? How could anyone be so stupid and heartless, they ask, as to oppose free money from Washington?
A corporate income tax? Anyone who disagrees, they suggest, is greedy, oblivious, ignorant, hoodwinked by distant corporate interests.
The beating from the raise taxes contingent – particularly evident here in Cheyenne – is unrelenting, and reliably disparaging to our legislative majority. They’re “children,” as our local paper suggests.
Well, not so fast.
I moved a lot back when I was in the newspaper business. Three towns in Wyoming. One in Colorado. Two towns in Illinois. One in Nebraska.
(When I finally retired from the daily newspaper biz, we scurried back to Wyoming.)
The great thing about Illinois was the neat old houses that were available for not much money. In 1995, we bought a big old Victorian house that was great for raising kids, for $125,000. We worked like the dickens on it, before selling it six years later for $175,000.
When it came to taxes, however, Illinois was not a great deal. Every year we paid around $3,700 in property taxes. And we paid state income taxes – we both worked – of 3 percent.
Nebraska was just as bad, maybe worse. We bought a beautiful brick house, walking distance from the newspaper, right across the street from a city park, for $165,000. Beautiful lawn. Great garage. Big trees. Nice neighbors.
Once again, however, the property taxes were enough to make a grown man cry – around $3,600. The state income tax, graduated, was 6 percent.
I wrote an editorial about high taxes depressing housing values, and it was one of the rare times I got some real pushback from the movers and shakers in that town, especially the real estate people.
(I found Nebraskans to be incredibly patient with the high taxes, and chalked it up to the fact that average guy is too busy rooting for the Cornhuskers to care about taxes.)
So then, daily journalism darn near ran the wheels off me, and we finally moved back to Wyoming. It took a lot of work, three houses, and three basements that I finished myself, but we ended up in a nice house and some land (a “ranchette,” making me a ranchetter) that the county assessor says is worth well over $400,000.
And our property tax bill – GET THIS – is $2,700 a year.
That’s $1,000 less than on the $125,000 house in Illinois. Nine hundred less than the $165,000 house in Nebraska. And we pay no state income tax. We saved $10,000 the first year, and wondered why we hadn’t moved back to Wyoming far sooner.
And yet, according to our friends in the media, any lawmaker who doesn’t support higher taxes and Medicaid expansion is a “child.” Lawmakers must be “brave” enough to raise taxes, according to most editorial pages. (Why are editors such fans of tax increases? Beats me.)
And, of course, the pressure to expand Medicaid is huge, with hospitals and health care groups banging the drum to accept free money from a federal government that is already $23 trillion in the red. “Free money?” From Washington? Now there’s a horse laugh.
Some among us are determined to give up a significant competitive advantage and make us just like Colorado, Nebraska, even Illinois, with their high taxes, spending, and taste for more free money from the federal government. And they call those who disagree “children.”
Folks like my wife and I appreciate common sense Wyoming lawmakers who are doggedly preserving a tax climate that is one more thing making this state so attractive.
We may be a voice in the wilderness, but they have our thanks.