Category archive

News - page 37

Representative seeks cut in coal taxes

in News/Taxes
801

By Cowboy State Daily

A state representative is trying to bring coal taxes more in line with those assessed against oil and gas.

Rep. Tim Hallinan, R-Gillette, is proposing a cut in coal severance taxes from 7 percent to 6.5 percent, a reduction he said was warranted given the fact the coal industry has paid the state almost $1.2 billion in taxes in the last five years.

Hallinan said a 6.5 percent tax rate would bring coal closer to the 6 percent severance tax assessed on oil and gas.

“I saw this a an equity issue and a way we could strengthen the coal industry in my community,” he said.

The reduction would cut Wyoming’s severance tax income by an estimated $13.5 million per year, according to Legislative Service Office estimates.

Hallinan’s bill, HB 167, is awaiting a review from the House Revenue Committee.

Tobacco tax dies in House committee

in News/Taxes
Extinguished cigarette on a table toble next to ashtray, ALT=Tobacco tax
798

A measure that would have boosted taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products was killed in a House committee on Monday.

The House Revenue Committee voted 5-4 to keep HB 218 from reaching the House floor The bill would have increased cigarette taxes by $1 per pack, from 60 cents to $1.60.

The measure was one of a number of bills introduced this session aimed at raising tax revenues. 

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, chairman of the House Revenue Committee, said the bills represent ways legislators are looking at avoiding a state budget deficit moving forward.

“Three years ago after the financial crisis hit Wyoming, we were still in crisis mode, tryng to see how far down we were going to go,” he said. “Now that we’ve stabilized, it’s time to say ‘How are we going to fix this decrease.’ We’re $350 million still in deficit and so that’s why you’re seeing a lot of tax bills this session. It’s to say long-term moving forward, how do we make sure we have a balanced budget?”

Bipartisan legislation introduced to delay health insurance tax hike

in Health care/News
Health spelled out in medication/pills, ALT=heath insurance tax
781

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s costly health insurance premiums can make it difficult for independent businesses to provide policies for employees, a National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) spokesperson said.

“Premiums are not decreasing — they’re increasing, and they have been for years,” said Tony Gagliardi, the NFIB state director for Wyoming and Colorado. “It makes it harder and harder for small employers to continue to provide the benefits for their employees.”

As a result, Gagliardi is welcoming a move proposed by U.S. Sen. John Barrasso and some of his colleagues to delay implementation of a tax on health care premiums created by the Affordable Care Act.

Wyoming Department of Insurance Senior Health Policy Analyst Denise Burke said the majority of Wyoming residents rely on health benefits provided by employers.

“We have a very high percentage of Wyoming residents who receive their insurance from their employer,” Burke said. “It’s about 59 percent. That’s above the national average.”

If the federal Health Insurance Tax takes effect as planned in 2020, anyone paying insurance premiums, including Wyoming’s employers, will see a jump in premium costs.

On Wednesday, Barrasso joined a bipartisan group of legislators trying to ensure health insurance premiums don’t jump up in 2020.Barrasso and Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, Doug Jones, D-Alabama, Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, introduced the Health Insurance Tax Relief Act to provide a two-year delay of the Health Insurance Tax (HIT) created by the Affordable Care Act, a news release from Barrasso’s office says.

If the delay fails, the tax could increase premiums by about 2 percent or $196 per person in the individual market, $479 per family in the small-group market, $458 per family in the large-group market and $157 for Medicaid premiums on average nationwide, the news release says.

“We’re very pleased and thanked Sen. Barrasso for pushing against HIT,” Gagliardi said. “Should that tax be implemented, it will be passed on to the policy holders.”

The NFIB is a non-profit organization, which represents small businesses in Washington, D.C., and each of the 50 state capitols. It was created 75 years ago and boasts approximately 325,000 members across the U.S. Gagliardi said the organization has been active in Wyoming for decades and represents about 2,300 small business owners throughout the state.

“Increased health insurance premiums themselves may not affect a business opening or closing,” he said. “It does have a workforce effect. Oftentimes, the inability of an employer to offer good health insurance affects their ability to attract good employees.”

Burke said Wyoming’s health insurance premiums are the second costliest in the nation, with only Iowa ranking more costly. 

“Across the board, rural health insurance is more expensive,” she explained. “Wyoming has higher than the national average smoking rate and a higher than average elder population, and all of those contribute.”

Currently, tax on premiums offered within the state is set at 3 percent, Burke added. Estimates within her department place the rate of Wyoming’s uninsured residents between 13-18 percent, and she said the national average was about 13 percent.

“Anecdotally, we are thinking the people who are leaving the market are the young and the healthy,” Burke said. “The way insurance works is balancing the cost pool between the healthy and the unhealthy, so without healthy people in the pool, the cost will go up.”

If the HIT takes effect in 2020, Gagliardi said the potential 2 percent increase to premiums could have serious ramifications for Wyoming’s workforce.

“The HIT tax could be the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said.

Weekly wrap: Corporate income tax moves ahead, party switch bill dead

in News
779

By Cowboy State Daily

A thumbs up for income taxes on large companies and putting Wyoming permanently on daylight savings time, a thumbs down for a personal income tax in the Legislature this week.

Lawmakers wrapped up their third week of action Friday after having taken care of a number of bills, including HB 233, which would have imposed a 4 percent income tax on people making more than $200,000 a year. The bill died in the House Revenue Committee, but another, imposing a 4 percent income tax on large retailers with headquarters outside of Wyoming, won final approval in the House. HB 220, also called the National Retail Fairness act, now heads to the Senate for review.

A bill that would have put restrictions on when voters can change their party affiliation was also killed this week, dying in the Senate Corporations Committee. SF 32 would have required people changing party affiliation to do so before candiates begin filing for office in May. Two similar bills are awaiting review in the House and Senate.

Also killed this week was a bill aimed at exempting some senior citizens from property taxes. HB 128 would have granted an exemption to seniors who have owned their homes for at least three years.

Meanwhile, a bill to declare Dec. 10 2019 as “Wyoming Women’s Suffrage Day” cleared the Senate with no opposition. SJ 3 now moves to the House for its review.

In addition, a bill keeping Wyoming on daylight savings time year-round won approval in its second House vote.

Drunken boating bill passes first Senate reading

in News/Recreation
Close up of boat docked in marina, ALT=Boating, Boating under the influence
777

By Cowboy State Daily

A measure that would make the limits for boating while intoxicated the same as those for driving while intoxicated won initial approve in the Senate on Friday.

SF 40 would reduce the blood-alcohol limit for operating a motorboat from 0.1 percent to 0.08 percent, the same limit in place for driving a vehicle.

Sponsor Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, said her intent was to put some consistency into state law.

“I think it’s just a consistency issue as well as a safety issue for the citizens in the state,” she said.

 The bill will receive its second Senate review on Monday.

Personal income tax dies, corporate tax moves ahead

in News
771

By Cowboy State Daily

Two bills proposing Wyoming’s first income taxes met with different fates on Friday in Wyoming’s House.

One bill proposing an income tax on individuals died in the House Revenue Committee, while another proposing a 7 percent tax on large out-of-state retailers doing business in Wyoming won approval in its final House review.

The individual tax bill, HB 233, would have imposed a 4 percent income tax on those making more than $200,000 per year.

Sponsor Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, said she suggested the measure as a way to begin a discussion on a possible statewide income tax, especially given recommendations to remove the state’s sales tax exemption on food.

“Who should be paying that extra amount?” she said. “Is it the most vulnerable among us? Or is it those with the means to do so? So I want that conversation out there.”

Connolly said the bill would have raised $200 million a year for education.

The corporate tax bill, HB220, was moved out of the House on a vote of 44-14.

Also called the “National Retail Fairness Act,” the measure would impose a 7 percent income tax on large businesses whose headquarters are in other states.

Sponsors of the bill argue that large retailers, such as WalMart, charge the same for their products in Wyoming as they do in states with income taxes, such as Nebraska. Since the price of the income tax is built into the price of the product, that means Wyoming residents are helping to pay the income taxes charged in other states, backers argued.

Wyoming Senate Update: Meat labeling, health cost study, drunken boating bills win approval

in News
775

Wyoming’s Senate wrapped up its week with a flurry of activity Friday, approving bills addressing meat labeling, a statewide study of health care costs and drunken boating.

SF 68 would require that only meat from livestock or poultry could be labeled as meat. The measure would also require that any meat not made from a harvested animal — such as a vegetable-based product — would have to be labeled as “imitation food.” The bill won final approval from the Senate on a vote of 25-3 and was sent to the House for its review.

Backers of SF 67 are seeking a study of Wyoming’s health care costs because national figures show the average cost to treat a patient in Wyoming is $4,000, compared to the national average of $3,000. The bill was approved in its first review by the full body on Friday and will be heard in its second reading Monday.

Finally, a measure that would impose the same standards on boating while drunk as are in place for driving while intoxicated was also approved in its first reading. SF 40 would set the blood-alcohol limit for operating a boat at 0.08 percent — the same limit in place for driving a car. For years, the boating standard has been set at 0.1 percent.

Casper to host ‘Global Game Jam’ event

in News/Technology
Man playing computer games in a gaming forum, ALT=Global Gaming jam
762

By Brady Brinton

Wyoming game designers will come together in Casper this weekend to collaborate on new video game creations as part of a national “Global Game Jam.”

During the event, to begin Friday evening at the Wyoming Technology Business Center, programmers and designers of all skill levels will collaborate to create playable video games.

What exactly is a Game Jam? A Game Jam is a two-day session where people collaborate together to create playable video games. Attendees will form groups to program the code, design the art and graphics, fashion a musical score, create sound effects and architect the gameplay. The objective is two part; create a functional and emersible game, and to create synergy and provide experience in the game design field.

At the same time participants are working in Casper, others will be working at hundreds of locations around the world.

According to organizers, the event encourages people with all kinds of backgrounds to participate and contribute to the global spread of game development and creativity.

Today at the Wyoming Legislature: Party switching, tax break bills die in House

in News
761

By Cowboy State Daily

Bills on party switching, daylight savings time and a property tax exemption for seniors were all on the table at the Wyoming Legislature on Thursday.

A bill that would have limited when voters can change their party affiliations, SF 32, was killed for a second time by the Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee.

The committee on Wednesday refused to send the bill to the Senate for a review by the full body. But committee Chair Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, said there was interest in the Senate in seeing the bill, so he asked committee members to reconsider their vote Thursday. Members voted again not to send the bill forward.

The bill would have specified voters could only switch party affiliation before the filing period for candidates for office in early May. Two more bills aimed at putting similar restrictions in place are pending in both the Senate and House

House members killed by a vote of 29-27 a bill that would have removed the names of public employees from published lists of what counties and cities pay their employees. Current law requires that the names, positions and salaries of public employees be published.

A measure that would put Wyoming on daylight savings time year-round won approval in its “Committee of the Whole” review in the House. HB 14 will receive its second review in the House on Friday.

However, representatives voted 37-20 to kill a vote that would have granted property tax exemptions for some over the age of 65. HB 128 would have made seniors exempt from property taxes if they had owned their home for at least three years.

Bill to impose tax on out-of-state companies headed for final House reading

in News
767

By Cowboy State Daily

A corporate income tax could be seen in Wyoming under a bill that cleared its second vote in the House on Thursday.

Representatives voted in favor of HB 220 — also called the National Retail Fairness Act — to send it to a third and final House reading on Friday.

The bill would impose a 7 percent tax on companies that do business in Wyoming but are headquartered in other states, raising an estimated $45 million a year.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jerry Obermueller R-Casper, said Wyoming residents pay the same for items from large retailers, such as WalMart, as residents of Nebraska, which has an income tax. Because the income tax is built into the price of items, Wyoming residents are helping to pay Nebraska’s income tax, he said.

“We’re saying we’re paying the taxes in, we want the taxes back to build our roads and schools, not yours,” he said.

But Chris Brown, director of the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association, said the tax could hurt the state’s hospitality industry.

He also questioned the speed with which the bill is moving through the legislative process, saying retail and hosptality industry representatives have not had chance to thoroughly review it.

The bill was introduced on Tuesday, was cleared in committee on Wednesday and went through its second reading Thursday.

“That’s unfortunate because it’s been limiting the ability for retail to get its grips around it and weigh in on it accurately,” he said.

Go to Top