Guest Column: Lessons in Conservatism

Rep. Mark Jennings writes, "I have watched with great interest the dueling op-eds between conservatives in the Wyoming House and those members trying desperately to convince our state that they are conservative."

CS
CSD Staff

January 25, 20244 min read

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I have watched with great interest the dueling op-eds between conservatives in the Wyoming House of Representatives and those members trying desperately to convince our state that they are conservative.  Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between the genuine article and the cheap knock-off—especially in campaign season.

Some members of the House have come up with what they are calling “The Conservative Commitment to Wyoming.”  I had to chuckle because while some of their proposals sound good, they’ll have devastating effects for Wyoming Citizens. 

The infamous Inflation Reduction Act comes to mind.  If their proposals really were conservative and in the best interests of Wyoming, of course we conservatives would be in support of them.  As my 31 friends on the other side are not accustomed to acting the least bit conservative, I’d like to offer my assistance in their new venture.

I noticed that there are a few, tiny details that weren’t mentioned in their “Conservative Commitment:”

First, while I’m impressed that the other side now thinks a cap on property tax increases is a good idea, they’re still failing to understand the financial strain Wyoming families are currently under.  House Bill 18, the Property Tax Inflation Cap, really does only one thing: guarantees your taxes will go up 5% every year.  That’s 5% from where they are now. 

There is no accounting for the dramatic increases we have all experienced the last few years.  What’s more, in 14 years, your property taxes will double.  Instead of the possible 5% allowable increase, it will be considered by County Assessors and the Department of Revenue to be mandatory.  No doubt, this was just an oversight.

It brought a grin to my face to see our friends on the other side come around to the idea of education savings accounts.  In their haste to push out what is no doubt an exciting piece of legislation for them it appears they’ve missed a few things—namely the Wyoming Constitution.  The bill purports to provide state money to lesser income families to educate their children how they see fit: home school, private school or otherwise. 

In their numerous political missives about the matter, our normally less than conservative colleagues forgot to mention Article 3, section 36.  “No appropriation shall be made for charitable, industrial, educational, or benevolent purposes to any person, corporation or community not under the absolute control of the state.”  In other words, if your family took ESA money for your children, it would be no different than if they attended the public school you are trying to get away from. 

“Absolute control” means absolute control.  It’s no small wonder why the Buffalo Bulletin said this bill would “protect the integrity of the public education system.”  Their “conservative” bill would be no different than the current public education system.

As they voted an average of 85% with the Democrats in the last session and being new to conservatism, I’m not surprised in the least that my 31 normally left-leaning friends missed the second problem with their ESA bill.  As a general rule, it is not conservative to create brand-new entitlements.  In Wyoming, pre-kindergarten education is either handled by parents directly or by ministerial pre-school programs and not by the state. 

House Bill 19, the Education Savings Accounts bill, would essentially create state sponsored pre-schools in Wyoming to the detriment of existing pre-school programs. 

New “conservatives” often miss Article 7 section 12 of our Constitution which prevents state monies from going to any religious institution or program.  This is what we real conservatives call “picking winners and losers.”  And it is yet another thing that we disagree with.  Creating new entitlements and vastly expanding government is and never has been a conservative plan.

While I have been delighted to impart my knowledge of conservatism to those who are potentially interested in this style of governing, it’s pretty clear that the “Conservative” Commitment to Wyoming is anything but that.  Rather, it’s just another example of 31 people attempting to appear conservative while they continue to vote with and push policies for the Democrats.  Actual Conservatives wouldn’t do that either.

Mark Jennings represents House District 30 in Sheridan.

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