By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily
A group of 17 Wyoming Republican Party members are asking Gov. Mark Gordon to call a special legislative session to roll back state property taxes to 2019 levels and enact a fuel tax holiday.
Fremont County Republican Party Chairwoman Ginger Bennett, who organized the drafting and signing of the letter, said the current inflation and associated supply chain issues require that a special session be called to address the issue.
“The current economic situation is caused by massive bureaucratic overreach — in some cases, that overreach is simply a matter of statutes and regulations that have, over the years, been promulgated, without thought of ever repealing the action,” Bennett said. “Some of them are unwarranted now, as time has changed the circumstances. There is a need to meet from time to time to consider these, and to bring the laws current with on-the-ground situations.”
Property taxes have skyrocketed around Wyoming in recent months, with some counties claiming increases as high as 50%. The letter suggests letting the Legislature once again consider steps proposed in 2021 by Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper to put a 3% cap on yearly property tax growth and to look at a suspension of the state’s fuel tax.
Gray told Cowboy State Daily he supports the idea of having a special session, but said he would take the property tax idea one step further and bring it back to 2017 levels.
Twelve of the 17 people signing the letter sent to Gordon on June 22 are chairmen for their respective county Republican parties.
Bennett said several legislators also suggested to her that a special session be held, although she would not name any.
Gordon’s communications director Michael Pearlman confirmed the governor has received the letter.
“Many of the issues he is working on are ones that the letter highlights,” Pearlman said. “He is listening to people from around the state and values the opinions that are expressed.”
In May, Gordon promoted a property tax refund program passed in this year’s legislature that gives Wyoming homeowners the chance to qualify for property tax reductions if they meet certain income requirements.
Bennett blames the inflation on policies initiated by President Joe Biden, who Bennett said is “bent on dismantling the American dream.”
Those policies have negatively affected many families she knows, she said, including her own.
Paul Garbin, a Hot Springs County Republican Party state committeeman, agreed.
“Lots of families can’t afford to buy gas and feed someone in the same week,” he said, although he added he has not spoken with anyone personally who has experienced that dilemma.
Biden has initiated many policies that have increased regulation and moratoriums on production by Wyoming’s energy industries. These policies have been enacted in keeping with Biden’s goal of reducing greenouse gases and improving the environment.
But Bennett said the policies have also led to inflation.
“Wyoming has resources that, when unfettered by overregulation, can be utilized to effectively decrease inflation,” Bennett said. “These resources include not only our oil and gas industry on state lands, but also other industries on state lands, as well as private industry that depends on state institutions for licensing prior to being able to implement activities.”
Bennett said she believes the country is in a severe recession. Many leading economists have stated there is a rising likelihood a recession will happen this year but few have said the country is in one currently.
The letter also asks that the state’s fuel tax of 24 cents per gallon on gasoline and diesel be lifted until diesel prices drop to $3 per gallon and at least until Labor Day to assist truck drivers.
The average price of diesel in Wyoming on Tuesday was $5.70. It has not been below $3 nationally since February 2021.
“The people of Wyoming must travel great distances, and the price being charged at the pump for fuel is a ‘silent’ tax,” Bennett said.
The letter also demands that Gordon dramatically increase oil and gas drilling on state lands, change oil and gas drilling regulations and statutes so they cannot be used to prevent drilling and work with the refineries in Wyoming and Montana to assure maximum output can be achieved.
Gordon was also asked to simplify and streamline regulations on meat processing plants, incentivize small sawmill production and increase fertilizer production on state lands.
“We encourage you to work with our legislators to develop additional solutions!” the letter said. “Some of our best resources are the fine minds we have working towards solutions for our people! By working together, we are certain that Wyoming can create sustainable solutions through conservative policy that allow the people of Wyoming to flourish.”
The last special session of the Legislature was called in 2021 to discuss federal vaccine mandates.