Wyoming Voters Say Inflation, School Choice Are State’s Top Issues

Former Wyoming legislator Tyler Lindholm is spearheading a statewide door-to-door campaign to find out what issues Cowboy State residents care about most. So far, voters say inflation and school choice.

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Leo Wolfson

August 22, 20236 min read

Lexi Daugherty, a recent University of Wyoming graduate, talks to a homeowner in Cheyenne on Tuesday. She's part of an American's for Prosperity effort to ask voters what their top issues are.
Lexi Daugherty, a recent University of Wyoming graduate, talks to a homeowner in Cheyenne on Tuesday. She's part of an American's for Prosperity effort to ask voters what their top issues are. (Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily)

A group of canvassers have been walking neighborhoods and knocking on doors as part of a summer “listening tour” around Wyoming to find out what registered voters care about most.

Former state legislator Tyler Lindholm said the state of the economy and inflation are concerns that are brought up at about 90% of the homes he and his group have visited. 

Lindholm, a former Republican state lawmaker from Sundance, is the Wyoming director for Americans for Prosperity, a libertarian conservative political advocacy group founded by the Koch brothers. The group’s primary focus is reducing government regulation to help spawn innovation and growth. 

“We’re focused on getting the government out of the way so people can self-actualize and find their own path,” he said. 

Lindholm’s group is talking to people around the state to find out what issues his group should push for in the 2024 session for the Wyoming Legislature and election season. The goal isn’t to push any certain agenda; rather, it’s to find out what Wyoming people want his group to lobby for.

“We want to know what causes people are interested in and how people feel about the upcoming Legislature,” Lindholm said. “We’re making sure our policies are aligned with them. We would suck as a grassroots policy organization if we didn’t know where Wyomingites are at with these issues.”

Lexi Daugherty, a recent University of Wyoming graduate, goes door-to-door to homes of registered voters in Cheyenne on Tuesday. She's part of an American's for Prosperity effort to ask voters what their top issues are.
Lexi Daugherty, a recent University of Wyoming graduate, goes door-to-door to homes of registered voters in Cheyenne on Tuesday. She's part of an American's for Prosperity effort to ask voters what their top issues are. (Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily)

Inflation

Inflation and the economy have not only been noted as the most important issues for those Lindholm’s group has spoken to, but also for Americans across the country heading into 2024.

The dregs of inflation have waged a war on American wallets, reducing purchasing power and overall household budgets. Since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation has continuously risen, although it has slowed in recent months.

Interest rates are now much higher than a few years prior, creating a downward trend in the real estate market. Sales of already-built homes fell 2.2% in July, dropping 16.6% from where they were a year ago, the National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday.

Anti-Apathy

Americans for Prosperity has a handful of part-time door knockers canvassing in Cheyenne, Casper and Gillette this summer.  

One person helping with the listening tour is Lexi Daugherty, a Jackson native who recently graduated from the University of Wyoming and has assisted with a few other Republican campaigns. Daugherty said she wanted to get involved with the Prosperity survey to help prevent apathy.

“Apathy is the greatest threat to our country right now,” she said. “It’s about getting people involved.”

One common emotion Daugherty said she has seen from the people she has spoken to this summer is anger.

“I have seen the impact inflation has had,” she said. “People are struggling, people are mad.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, $1,000 had the same buying power in 2019 that $1,214 does today.

School Choice

School choice is another bread-and-butter issue for Americans for Prosperity. Lindholm said around 80% of the people he has spoken to support school choice in Wyoming.

“That is one of those issues people are most passionate about,” he said.

School choice is the concept of allowing families to put their children’s public education money toward non-traditional public schools.

Lindholm said Wyoming ranks relatively low when it comes to “school freedom” rankings. A 2021 Educational Freedom study performed by the conservative-leaning Cato Institute found that Wyoming has the sixth least conducive laws for school choice in the nation.

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder has been a vocal proponent of school choice and lawmakers passed a bill during the 2023 Legislature creating a charter school authorizing board to oversee approval of new charter schools.

One bill proposed by state Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, last session would give families $6,000 per student to go toward tuition at any school or for educational expenses. The voucher system would redirect federal mineral royalties from an account that funds Wyoming’s public schools to a new fund for the school choice families.

The Legislative Service Office estimated the move would cost $111 million in its first three years.

Lexi Daugherty, a recent University of Wyoming graduate, goes door-to-door to homes of registered voters in Cheyenne on Tuesday. She's part of an American's for Prosperity effort to ask voters what their top issues are.
Lexi Daugherty, a recent University of Wyoming graduate, goes door-to-door to homes of registered voters in Cheyenne on Tuesday. She's part of an American's for Prosperity effort to ask voters what their top issues are. (Lexi Daugherty, a recent University of Wyoming graduate, goes door-to-door to homes of registered voters in Cheyenne on Tuesday. She's part of an American's for Prosperity effort to ask voters what their top issues are.)

Not Interested In Book Bans

Lindholm said one subject he hasn’t seen much interest from residents is the banning and removal of books from school libraries.

“That was exceptionally fascinating for us,” he said.

Generally, Lindholm believes there’s a connection between people’s support for school choice and their aversion to removal of books from schools that comes from an overall desire to have a wide range of personal options.

Property Taxes

The group also ids sizing up property taxes, which has become one of the most preeminent concerns in Wyoming in recent years. Even those who don’t own property usually end up paying for property taxes through rent increases.

“The lack of effort made in the last 10 years in the Legislature has made it worse,” Lindholm said.

The Legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee has made addressing property taxes a top priority this summer, hosting a contentious meeting in June on the topic. 

The most significant property tax reform enacted during the 2023 Legislature increased the eligibility pool for property tax rebates, which Lindholm said provided “some help” to those in the low-income tax bracket, but he also believes that’s simply a “band-aid” for the overall problem. 

Americans for Prosperity hasn't picked a specific avenue for property tax relief it wants to endorse in Wyoming, but Lindholm said many of the avenues would also require a constitutional amendment.

“A lot of the changes we would like take a long process, but we’re in it for the long haul,” he said.

Americans for Prosperity will use the information they gather to support certain bills during the 2024 Legislature and candidates along the 2024 campaign trail, where they plan to expand their efforts with about 20 staffers.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter