Bill Sniffin: A Good Tax? Shootouts. My Favorite Deer. Fun Tourism Conference.

Columnist Bill Sniffin writes, “A revolutionary tax program has been proposed that would get rid of property taxes for 97 percent of the home-owners in Wyoming. It is a fantastic idea.”

Bill Sniffin

February 24, 20245 min read

Bill Sniffin lots of snow 1 16 23

Who doesn’t hate taxes but is it possible that some are better than others?

Some fantastic tax proposals have recently surfaced at the current session of the Wyoming Legislature and they deserve some comment.

Rep. Steve Harshman (R-Casper) has proposed a revolutionary tax program that would get rid of property taxes for 97 percent of the home-owners in Wyoming. It is a fantastic idea.

This involves raising our sales tax by two percentage points to make up for the lost revenue. What is unique about Wyoming is that out-of-staters pay almost a fourth of the state’s sales taxes. And they will not suffer sticker shock as most states have sales tax rates higher than ours.

As this idea moves forward, things will become more complicated than I have discussed here. Stay tuned.

There is not a single state in America that does not have property tax for most of its home owners. 

A Tax On Power?

A group of legislators proposed that we put an export tax on electrical power. This is also a revolutionary idea.

The vast majority of our electrical power generated here is sent out of state to places like California. Of course, those West Coast folks do not want any Wyoming taxes on their power. Their rates are so high they really would not even notice our little tax. But it would make a huge difference to our state budget.

This is pretty much a new idea that dovetails well with our declining severance tax charges. For almost 60 years Wyoming has put a tiny severance tax on coal, oil, and natural gas that exits our state because those natural products have been “severed” from us and we will never be able to get those products back. Does a similar tax theme apply to raw electrical power? We shall see.

Wyoming is becoming a national leader in both wind and solar. So far, we have just a minuscule tax on those products. This sector is growing by leaps and bounds each year.  

This idea deserves some strong consideration. I have long contended that no state imports more stuff than Wyoming. Just about everything we use comes here from somewhere else. And trust me, it all gets the heck taxed out of it back there before it gets here.

Thus, why would we not put a little tax on our products that go out of here?

‘Monolith To Wokeness’

One of the most interesting quotes to come out of the Legislature for a while came from its longest-serving member this past week.

Charlie Scott (R-Casper) called the University of Wyoming “a monolith to wokeness” during a recent discussion of cutting funds to UW for programs like the super liberal DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) and gender affirming education programs.

Scott is spot-on in taking this on. And he knows what he is talking about. He is a graduate of Harvard and is very disappointed in what has happened to that formerly great school when it comes to wokeness and crazy trends.

Beautiful Whitetail Versus Ugly Mule Deer

I love mule deer, which despite facts to the contrary, I consider to be our native species. Whitetail deer are everywhere, especially in the east and the Midwest where I grew up, whereas the mulies thrive here in the mountains and on our sagebrush-covered high prairies.

Mule deer are named that because of their huge ears, which resemble those of a mule.  

Senate President Ogden Driskill (R-Devils Tower) wants separate hunting seasons for the two species, which makes a lot of sense, especially now when the mule deer population has been beaten back so much from the winter of 2022-2023.

We should do everything we can to save our Mule Deer. Those Whitetail, heck, they can move to Montana or Colorado.

Body Cam Footage In Thermop

Incredible body cam footage (video cameras located on law enforcement officer’s body) was featured in Clair McFarland’s excellent news story in Cowboy State Daily last Thursday.

I have been around the news business for 60 years and this story is unique. Clair covered it perfectly but that body cam footage is so extraordinary. You actually see a policeman get wounded and then you watch as he kills the other shooter, while lying on the floor. 

It is so doggone real – because it is real. Real time video of a shoot-out in the wonderful little town of Thermopolis - amazing. The dead man’s wife is screaming in the background.

That video makes this one of the most unique news stories I have ever seen in my six decades of being around news.

Cowboy State Daily coverage of this story was extraordinary. Led by Clair, it follows up the previous week’s amazing coverage of a shoot-out in another of Wyoming’s nicest towns, Sheridan. Clair’s story plus on-the-spot coverage of reporters Andrew Rossi and Pat Maio was just outstanding.

Wyoming’s Wonderful Tourism Conference

Members of the state’s hospitality industry are gathering in Cheyenne today and this week to celebrate our second biggest industry- tourism. Over 32,000 people work in this sector, our largest.

This will be the first one of these I’ve missed in 30 years. But Cowboy State Daily, of course, led by Business and Tourism reporter Renee Jean, is covering it. It is going to be a good one. Have fun everyone.

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Bill Sniffin

Wyoming Life Columnist

Columnist, author, and journalist Bill Sniffin writes about Wyoming life on Cowboy State Daily -- the state's most-read news publication.