Guest Column: Fixing the Property Tax Problem, Once and For All

In a guest column, Rep. Cyrus Western writes, "The Property Tax Relief Act will provide immediate relief from skyrocketing property taxes and reform the system to put a ceiling on future property tax increases."

CSD Staff

November 20, 20234 min read

Cyrus 11 20 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Wyomingites rightly expect that their state government will treat their hard-earned money with the respect it deserves, and that the tax system will be predictable and fair.

By and large, that’s exactly what we do, and it’s why we are ranked the most tax-friendly state in the country, and, according to the conservative Tax Foundation, we have the best business tax climate.

41 of 50 states have a higher property tax rate than Wyoming.  And of the only 11 states nationwide that have a lower property tax rate than we do, all of them have a state income tax – which we do not. 

However, despite a relatively modest property tax rateskyrocketing home values are squeezing family budgets with huge and unexpected increases in their property tax bills.

My district is one of the hardest hit in the state, especially for our local seniors on fixed incomes, but it’s a problem that is impacting housing costs for everyone across the Cowboy State, including renters who pay higher rents to cover increased taxes, and is literally threatening to tax residents out of their homes.

Lawmakers in Cheyenne need to deal with this challenge head on and return to the days of reasonable, predictable property tax bills.

That’s why your legislative leadership is working with fellow true conservatives to support the proposed Property Tax Relief Act in the 2024 session. This will provide immediate relief from skyrocketing property taxes and reform the system to put a ceiling on future property tax increases.

Specifically, this legislation caps property tax increases at five percent. This five percent tax cap gives each family certainty that their tax bill will never increase more than five percent, even if the value of their home increases by much more.

This allows people the ability to appropriately plan for their property tax payment and puts local governments on notice that they too need to budget accordingly. The days of surprise 30 percent tax increases will be over.

As we look for ways to reform our property tax system to bring true tax relief to families, it’s critical that we not do so recklessly and in a way that threatens to open the door for other sorts of tax increases to fill a revenue gap.

That’s the fatal flaw with a proposed ballot initiative that would cut assessments in half.

That sounds great until you ask how local governments, the government closest to the people, that relies on the property tax to fund schools, plow our roads, maintain our bridges, pick up our trash, and other vital services will fill a budget gap that make up a big part of their finances. 

If such a proposal was implemented, you would soon find officials scurrying to find new ways to raise revenue to make up for the dramatic loss.

The Tax Foundation warns that “exempting half of the home value from the property tax is not the way” to address spikes in property taxes. 

“The adoption of such a policy could imperil Wyoming's status as a no-income-tax state because it would create a local revenue crunch that state policymakers may eventually feel pressure to backfill, even as the state projects a long-run decline in tax revenue from oil, gas, and mining.”

As is typical with those promoting this bad idea, they haven’t thought it through because they are less interested in tax relief for hardworking families and valued senior citizens than they are a rallying cry for votes and campaign contributions. 

In reality, instead of tax relief, the end result of their gimmick will be that Wyoming’s well-earned reputation as America’s best state for taxation will be compromised as new, currently non-existent tax streams are brought to life giving ample opportunity to take more of your hard earned money.

There is a better way. By capping property tax increases, the Property Tax Relief Act shields taxpayers from tax hikes resulting from skyrocketing property values, while ensuring local government provides the services people across Wyoming deserve.

Cyrus Western represents House District 51 in Big Horn, Wyoming.

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CSD Staff