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Wyoming Ranked Top For Business Tax Climate For 10th Straight Year

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming has again been identified as the state with the country’s best tax climate for  businesses by a tax policy group.

The Tax Foundation identified the state’s lack of personal and corporate income taxes and its relatively low sales taxes as a reason why the state stayed in the No. 1 ranking it has held for the past nine years.

And while the ranking is good news for the state’s businesses, other factors also figure into the success of those businesses, according to the president of the Wyoming Business Alliance.

“The business community is very resilient and to have a favorable tax climate definitely helps,” Cindy DeLancey told Cowboy State Daily. “But it’s not the only answer. There are many key ingredients that have to come together for businesses to be successful in Wyoming.

The Tax Foundation, in its annual report, gave Wyoming its highest ranking for a tenth consecutive year because of its lack of corporate and personal income taxes.

“The absence of a major tax is a common factor among many of the top 10 states,” the report said. “Property taxes and unemployment insurance taxes are levied in every state, but there are several states that do without one or more of the major taxes…”

South Dakota placed second for the best tax climate.

DeLancey welcomed the ranking for Wyoming and credited state leaders for the policies that led to the rating.

“We’re incredibly blessed to have such thoughtful and considerate policy makers who really work to try to keep Wyoming competitive and our economy strong,” she said. “To see that ranking again is incredibly valuable in light of our state coming off of two years of the pandemic.”

However, state leaders must continue to pay attention to other factors that give the state a good climate for business, she said.

“It’s important that we keep our eye on the ball as far as regulatory developments and our workforce development,” she said.

Wyoming must also continue its work to diversify the economy and reduce the strain on the state’s energy industry, she said.

“We’re lucky the energy industry has paid our taxes for generations,” she said. “But with our global economy, we need to look at other industries to take the pressure off of an industry that is stressed to the max.”

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Wyoming Hospitality, Retail Tax Collections Up Over Pre-Pandemic Levels

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s hospitality and retail sectors were the high spots in the state’s economy in August and have been for the last two years, according to figures released by a state agency.

The latest report on the state’s economic indicators showed that not only did sales tax collections for those two sectors grow in August compared to August 2020, but they posted gains over pre-pandemic levels.

“Not only did these two sectors experience substantial increases relative to August 2020, they also experienced large increases when compared to August 2019, up 26% and 13.5% respectively,” said the report “Wyoming Insight,” prepared by the Economic Analysis Division of the state Department of Administration and Information.

The monthly report, which tracks figures that indicate the health of Wyoming’s economy, showed tax collections in the leisure and hospitality industry in August increased by $5.4 million over the same month in 2020, a 66% gain.

Retail trade tax collections, meanwhile, increased by almost $4.5 million over August 2020, a gain of 17.9%.Meanwhile, tax income for the education and health sector fell by $2.8 million from 2020, a decline of 54.2%.

Every county in the state except two saw an increase in total sales tax collections in August over 2020 figures, the report said, led by Teton County with an increase of almost $4.7 million from one year ago, 66.4%.

Carbon and Converse counties both saw declines in tax collections, 62% and 42.6%, respectively. The report noted that the lack of wind power construction projects in August skewed some of the annual tax collection comparisons.

The leisure and hospitality industry also accounted for the largest increase in jobs during the one-year period, with 4,900 new jobs created in August compared to 2020. Across all sectors, Wyoming added 8,300 jobs during the year for a total of 273,000.

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Wyoming Sales Taxes Jump In May From 2020

in News/Taxes
State checkbook reveals $1.2 billion in out-of-state expenditures

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s sales and use tax collections in May increased by almost 14% over May of 2020, according to a state agency, due largely to a serious slump in collections one year ago caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The state Department of Administration and Information’s Economic Analysis Division, in its monthly report “Wyoming Insight,” said sales and use tax collections in May totaled about $55.5 million, an increase from May of 2020 of $6.7 million, or 13.7%.

Much of the increase was attributed to the fact that sales and use collections lagged in 2020 because of last year’s coronavirus pandemic.

“May 2020 is when statewide collections were at (their) lowest point during the pandemic,” the report said. 

Teton County led the state for gains in sales and use tax collections, collecting $1.7 million in May, a 69.8% increase over figures from May 2020. Laramie County had the highest total tax collections in May at almost $2.4 million, a 32.5% increase.

Converse County’s sales and tax collections declined by almost $1.9 million in May compared to one year ago, 45.1%. Weston County had the highest percentage drop in collections, 46.1%, or $362,000.

“Wyoming Insight” provides monthly updates on the figures that indicate Wyoming’s economic health.

In addition to sales and tax use collection information, it provides data on mineral prices, the state’s cost of living and unemployment rates.

According to the report, the state’s mining industry continued to show the greatest losses in terms of total collections, almost $1.9 million in May compared to 2020, while the construction industry saw a decline in tax collections of 33% from 2020, $392,800.

However, the leisure and hospitality industry, hard hit by the pandemic-forced closures of 2020, saw sales and use tax collections increase by 73.4% in May from last year, $2.3 million.

The retail trade sector saw collection gains of almost $3.7 million in May over 2020, an increase of 17.6%.

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MTV: Celebrities Are Moving to Wyoming Due to Tax Laws

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Celebrities are attracted to Wyoming due to its lack of income tax laws, a new report from MTV News has concluded.

A regular segment on MTV news called “The Pop Factor” details how popular culture influences more than music charts and box office numbers, and for this segment, the producers took a look at the real estate market in Wyoming.

“Mega-stars like Harrison Ford, Sandra Bullock, Jeffree Star and RuPaul are snatching up real estate across Wyoming, a state known for mud, manure and manual labor,” said host Yoonj Kim.

Author and Wyoming native Justin Farrell said that the ultra-rich and famous are interested in Wyoming due to its lack of an income tax.

“If you have $100 million and you don’t have to pay income tax? That can save you so much money,” he said.

He added one of the reasons Wyoming doesn’t have a state income tax is due to its reliance on fossil fuels, and noted that the state’s political stance is generally against taxes.

Reality television star and California real estate agent Josh Flagg said while he doesn’t have any listings in Wyoming, he’s never surprised when a client calls to let him know they are moving to the state.

Flagg noted that while Jackson has always been a popular destination for the rich and famous, it has become even more so in recent years with word of celebrities such as the Kardashian family, Bullock and Ford having homes there.

Jackson has the state’s highest income per capita and its median price for a house is $2.6 million. As a state, Wyoming has the most billionaires per capita of any location in the world.

Rapper Kanye West owns multiple homes in Cody. YouTuber and makeup mogul Jeffree Star owns a home in Casper.

Jackson housing activist Clare Stumpf said that the housing prices in Jackson are so high, she lived in a Subaru for five years, but finally upgraded to a van.

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Bill Proposing New Sales Tax For Schools Moves to Wyoming Senate

in News/Taxes/Education

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

One down, one to go.

A pair of bills proposing increases in the statewide sales tax being debated in the Wyoming House of Representatives saw divided fortunes Tuesday.

Each proposed a statewide sales tax, one to benefit schools and the other to benefit local governments.

But the bill that backers said would have provided a stable funding source for cities and counties through a new sales tax died on a vote of 10-50, while the bill that would help fund schools around Wyoming lives on.

House Bill 173, which lays out a formula for funding the state’s schools, would allow a one-half cent sales tax to be imposed statewide that would help reduce the $300 million deficit currently facing Wyoming schools – but only if the state’s reserve account falls below $650 million.

Brian Farmer, executive director for the Wyoming School Boards Association, said the tax included in the education bill seeks to offset the downturn in the mineral industry revenues that have historically funded education in the state.

“We know that for the last 12 to 15 years we’ve been incredibly heavily reliant on the mineral industry,” he pointed out. “But as the landscape changes, as the mineral economy is changing, the state is probably in need of reviewing its revenue sources. Our traditional revenue sources are not what they used to be; our expenditures maintain, and they do grow because of inflation.”

But the bill doesn’t just propose an increase in taxes. 

“It involves cuts,” he said. “Looking at where might we be able to make reductions that would have the least impact to classrooms and school districts.”

But he said, make no mistake about it, cuts mean job losses.

“When 85% of (a school’s) budget is tied up in people, there really just is nowhere to keep that entirely away from impacting people,” Farmer said. “If you have cuts that are in the neighborhood of 10%, you will be seeing job losses within school districts.”

Farmer pointed out that in every community, school districts are among the top three employers – and if teachers lose their jobs, they are likely to move out of those communities rather than find a job in another field. That means fewer dollars circulating in Wyoming communities.

He added that revenue transfers are also addressed in the bill – diverting some income for the state’s savings accounts to current education needs.

Farmer explained that if imposed, the sales tax could generate around $80 million each biennium. 

“So, that new revenue, combined with some cuts, combined with some revenue transfers, really goes a long way to plugging that $300 million hole,” he said.

He added he is hopeful that Wyoming’s historic high regard for education will sway legislators to support additional funding for schools.

“From the beginning of our territorial days, Gov. Campbell, the very first Governor of Wyoming, called education ‘the cornerstone of the new state,’” he said. “So from the very beginning, we’ve gone forward and built an education system that’s an envy of the nation.”

“And if we lose that, we threaten the quality of education, we threaten the very economy of Wyoming,” he added.

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Legislator Says Wyoming Should Sell State Jets, WYDOT Pushes Back

in News/Taxes/Legislature
Wyoming’s jets cost state $1 million in 2018

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, says Wyoming sell its two jets used for transporting state employees, but some officials have pushed back against this idea.

“The State of Wyoming should list its TWO Luxury jets on EBAY instead of raising taxes and pushing toll road,” Bouchard wrote on his Facebook account that also featured a photo of the planes.

However, multiple Wyoming Department of Transportation studies have concluded the planes actually save the state money instead of being more costly.

State aeronautics division administrator Brian Olsen told Cowboy State Daily that although his department doesn’t have an official stance on the jets, the staff finds they are an efficient and effective tool in conducting state business.

“In 2014, a third party conducted an operational study report. That report indicated that the … total cost to operate the two aircraft was $2,645,995 average per year,” Olsen said. “We estimate the current operating costs to be on average between $2 and $2.1 million per year.”

The state owns the aircraft outright, so the only costs are for operations and maintenance.

“WYDOT pays the fixed costs (training/payroll/hangar/etc.) because we own and operate the aircraft and we would be responsible for those costs regardless of usage,” Olsen said. “When an agency uses the aircraft, we charge $1,425 per hour, that rate covers variable (consumable) costs.”

The study Olsen referenced also found the state’s transport aircraft were 14% more efficient per mile than auto/airline travel (based on a $100,000 salary). However, the study didn’t account for lost productivity or travel expenses associated with travel by car, which would also make the aircraft more efficient, he said.

The report also concluded the state’s aircraft were 32% more efficient than fractional aircraft (one that has multiple owners) and 44% more efficient than chartering a similar aircraft.

Gov. Mark Gordon’s spokesman Michael Pearlman pointed Cowboy State Daily to a comment the governor made to the outlet back in 2019, as he holds a similar stance today.

“Governor Gordon supports fiscal responsibility and the judicious use of taxpayer dollars,” Pearlman said at the time. “Several WYDOT studies have determined that owning state aircraft is more cost-efficient than private charters or driving vast distances.”

Pearlman added at the time Gordon advanced a budget proposal including more than $500 million in strategic cuts.

“Selling the state’s aircraft would do little to address the state’s budget shortfall,” Pearlman said.

Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, told Cowboy State Daily on Friday he introduced an amendment earlier this week requiring WYDOT to sell the jets, but it failed.

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Report: Wyo Taxes Collected From Education, Health Sectors More Than Double In January

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Sales tax collections from almost every sector of Wyoming’s economy declined in January from figures one year ago, but taxes generated by one sector more than doubled in the year, according to state figures.

The state’s Economic Analysis Division, in its monthly report “Wyoming Insight,” said sales and use taxes generated by the state’s education, health and “other” economic segment increased by almost $3.2 million in January over January 2020, an increase of almost 115%.

The increase was one piece of good news in a largely negative report on sales tax collections.

The report said collections from the mining industry, which includes oil and gas drilling, fell by $5.6 million in January from 2020, a decline of 54%.

The state’s leisure and hospitality industry saw its tax collections drop by 10.8%, almost $600,000, from January 2020.

Also dropping were collections from the construction, manufacturing, transportation, information and financial activities sectors.

However, the state’s wholesale trade sector saw its tax collections grow by 72.8% over 2020, almost $3.9 million.

Total sales and use collections in the state increased by $400,000 in January over January 2020, the report said, but the amount generated by some counties dropped significantly during the one-year period.

Campbell County collections, as an example, dropped by almost $1.9 million, 18.3 percent, while collections in Sublette County fell by $805,000, a drop of 42.6% from 2020.

However, some counties saw increased tax collections, such as Carbon County, where tax collections grew by almost 168% — $3.1 million — during the year. Carbon County is home to a significant wind energy project now being built.

The report also looked at the state’s unemployment rate, which increased from 3.7% in December 2019 to 4.8% in December 2020.

The report said the state’s mining industry saw the largest decline in jobs, 5,900, about 28.4%, from December 2019 to 2020.

The state’s leisure and hospitality industry and state and local governments also saw cuts in employment, with each sector losing 2,800 jobs over the year.

However, the retail trade sector added 2,300 jobs during the year and the construction industry added 1,000.

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Wyoming Ranked No. 1 For Business Tax Climate

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

For the seventh consecutive year, Wyoming has been ranked the top state in the nation by a tax policy group for its business tax climate.

However, a member of the Legislature’s Revenue Committee said he is not sure the high ranking translates into new business for the state.

“It obviously is great to get an A-plus on a paper, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the smartest person around,” said Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower. “It doesn’t equate to anybody coming here.”

The rankings by the Tax Foundation is based on the taxes in place in various states. The highest ranking states had fewer of what the group called “major taxes,” such as corporate income taxes, individual income taxes and sales taxes.

Wyoming fared well because it has no income tax, a well structured sales tax and modest excise taxes, which the Foundation said would make the state more attractive for economic development.

“Taxation is inevitable, but the specifics of a state’s tax structure matter greatly,” Jared Walczak, vice president of state projects for the Tax Foundation, said in a news release. “States with more competitive tax systems score well in the index, because they are best suited to generate economic growth.”

Wyoming ranked first in the nation in the area of personal and corporate income taxes because it has none.

For sales taxes, the state ranked sixth overall, while it was ranked 39th for property taxes.

Neighboring states also did well in the overall rankings, with South Dakota placing second, Montana placing fifth and Utah placing eighth.

New Jersey, with some of the country’s highest property taxes and second-highest corporate and individual income tax rates in the country, placed last.

However, Driskill noted that since Wyoming first topped the Tax Foundation’s rankings, the state’s tax structure has not helped the state lure new business as much as it should have.

“We might ace the test, but we’re not really passing,” he said. “The states with the best business climates are the ones attracting business. And that’s sure not Wyoming. We’re not even competing against our surrounding states.”

The state needs to take a hard look at itself to determine what changes are needed to bring in businesses, Driskill added.

“We might have what looks good on paper, but in fact, when you get here, you find we’re a much more regulatory state than it might look like we are,” he said. “We need to reassess what we are doing.”

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Bob Geha: Taxpayer Bill of Rights Legislation Introduced

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Bob Geha

By Bob Geha, Cowboy State Daily

The state’s voters would have to approve tax increases and higher debt levels under a measure introduced in Wyoming’s House.

House Joint Resolution 2 proposes an amendment to the state’s Constitution that would require voters to approve tax increases by any governmental entity in the state.

The measure, referred to as the “Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights,” was proposed by state Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper.

“This tax increase narrative keeps coming back, it’s the wrong move for our state,” he said. “The other thing this bill does is to put a cap on state expenditures … so that we stop these boom and bust cycles in terms of expenditures. We save more during the boom so we have more in savings during the bust and that means we don’t need the tax increases.”

Gray said if the amendment had been in place years ago, Wyoming would have more than twice in savings what it does now.

To be considered during the budget session, the bill must win the support of 40 representatives. If the bill is approved, a constitutional amendment would be submitted to voters during the general election in November.

Governor Gordon talks taxes

in News/Taxes
Gov Gordon Taxes

By Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming must prioritize the work that needs to be done on its roads before it considers raising gasoline taxes, according to Gov. Mark Gordon.

Gordon, speaking during a news conference Tuesday, said he is taking a “wait and see” approach to the 3-cent per gallon fuel tax increase recommended by the Legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee for consideration during the Legislature’s 2020 budget session.

Gordon said the state has a $165 million gap between income for road maintenance and repairs and the estimated cost to keep the state’s roads up.

“We’re not going to go crazy on trying to figure out revenue to fix all that,” he said. “I think part of the conversation has to be how do we prioritize the roads and how do we make sure people in Wyoming understand what we won’t be able to do before we start saying how we’re going to raise taxes.”

While Gordon said he is not a fan of a proposed corporate income tax the Joint Revenue Committee will submit to the Legislature, he might be able to support a statewide lodging tax, a proposal that died in the 2019 legislative session.

“If it seems to be well targeted and not generally affecting Wyoming’s population, I think I would be generally supportive of that,” he said.

On other issues, Gordon said he is concerned with the growing use of “vape” products by Wyoming’s teens and is working with the state Health Department to study options to deal with the issue.

“It does seem to me it doesn’t make sense for us to sell vaping products to anyone under 21 years of age,” he said. “This is an area the Legislature should look into. But from my standpoint and whether I would issue an executive order, I’m looking at those policies, too.”

Revenues ahead of estimates, though structural problems remain

in Government spending/News/Taxes
Wyoming taxes

By Laura Hancock, Cowboy State Daily

Sales taxes, investment income, oil severance taxes and federal mineral royalties are proving to be the saving grace for state coffers, according to a recent report, but the overall revenue picture for Wyoming remains bleak.

In the first six months of the year, production of natural gas and coal – as well as prices for coal – came in below the state’s official forecast, according to the Census Revenue Estimating Group, made up of revenue experts from the legislative and executive branches of Wyoming government. 

CREG recently released a six-month revenue update for Wyoming, and compared those revenues against its previous official state forecast, released in January. 

At one time, coal and natural gas were counter-cyclical – when one was down, the other was up – which helped Wyoming absorb the booms and busts of a natural resource economy, and money continued to flow to keep state government running. 

But the July 31 CREG update underscored a new reality: Production of both commodities was down, and the income for two accounts that fund most day-to-day operations in state government would have also missed estimates had it not been for other forms of revenue. 

Revenue receipts to the General Fund, which is something of a state checking account, were $201 million or 16.9 percent ahead of earlier forecasts for the year due to higher-than-anticipated sales tax, investment and oil severance tax income.  

Receipts to the Budget Reserve Fund, which is akin to a state overdraft account, were 6.7 percent ahead of projections, thanks to severance taxes and federal mineral royalties. State Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, said that Wyoming can’t always count on high returns on investments. 

“Future projections for investment returns are nowhere near where they’ve been the last four years,” he said. “They’re looking at 5.5 percent, 5.25 percent (rate of return) for the retirement system. We have some serious problems ahead of us.”

Zwonitzer is a co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee, which is studying whether to implement new taxes, such as a corporate income tax or a gross receipts tax. 

The difference between the two? A corporate income tax is assessed on business profits, or income. Gross receipts taxes are levied on sales. 

Companies don’t pay corporate income taxes if their profits are zero or negative. But that’s not true with gross receipts taxes, according to the conservative Tax Foundation.

Forty-four states have a corporate income tax and four have a gross receipts tax, Zwonitzer said. 

Other taxes under consideration: 

  • A higher assessment against wind power generation
  • An increase of the statewide mill levy for schools
  • Increases for some property taxes
  • Adding a fourth category of property taxes – currently there are residential, commercial and industrial – which would consider multi-million dollar residential homes. “That would require a constitutional amendment,” Zwonitzer said. 

However, tax talk is tough in the Cowboy State, where people are conservative and used to one of the nation’s lowest tax rates. Previous tax proposals – such as requiring taxes be assessed on services including haircuts, real estate transactions and legal services – went nowhere. 

“Some in the Republican caucus say we need to be cutting services more before raising taxes,” Zwonitzer said. “They can’t identify where those cuts are” outside of education. 

Revenue bills must first be introduced in the House, where Zwonitzer said many proposals will likely gain the two-thirds vote necessary to clear introduction and be referred to a committee on budget years, such as the 2020 session. 

“I think we’re going to have some good discussions,” he said. 

Income tax, party switching dead, lodging tax alive

in News/Taxes/Criminal justice

By Cowboy State Daily

The last of three bills that would have put restrictions on when voters can change party affiliations was among a number to die this week as the Legislature neared the end of its general session.

Legislators looking to wrap up their general session by Wednesday put in long hour this week finishing their work on a number of bills, eliminating several controversial measures.

HB 106 was the last of three bills that would have set time limits for people to change party affiliation. It would have set a deadline of May 1 for such changes. It was defeated in a 14-11 vote in its first Senate review.

Another bill killed would have imposed an income tax on large retail companies headquartered outside of Wyoming. HB 220 died without getting a review in a Senate committee.

Moving ahead, however, was a bill that would set a statewide lodging tax of 5 percent. HB 66 is set for a final vote in the Senate on Monday.

Approved with significant changes by the Senate was a bill originally designed to create a felony crime for animal abuse. HB 235 was amended to remove all language about the felony crime.

Wyoming Legislature: Where they are

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Wyoming Legislature bill analysis where they are

Here is the status of some bills making their way through the Legislature’s general session:

HB 14 — Creating the “Mountain Daylight Savings Time” zone for Wyoming. Defeated in Senate “Committee of the Whole.”

HB 38 — Raising legislative expense reimbursements from $109 per day to $149. Vetoed by Gov. Mark Gordon.

HB 52 — Giving preference to Wyoming-made products in furnishing state buildings. Awaiting governor’s signature.

HB 66 — Setting a statewide lodging tax of 5 percent. Approved in second reading in Senate.

HB 71 — Raising the penalty for violating equal pay rules to $500 per day. Signed into law by Gov. Mark Gordon.

HB 140 — Imposing a 48-hour waiting period to perform abortions. No action will be taken in Senate committee before the end of session.

HB 145 — Eliminating the death penalty. Killed in Senate “Committee of the Whole.”

HB 192 — Requiring photo ID to vote. Killed on third reading in House.

HB 220 — Imposing an income tax on out-of-state companies with business locations in Wyoming. Died without review in Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee.

HB 251 — Authorizing Wyoming to sue the state of Washington over it refusal to allow the construction of a coal port. Approved in second reading in Senate.

HJ 1 — Asking the federal government to delist the grizzly bear. Signed by Gov. Mark Gordon.

SF 46 — Limiting the length of a prescription of opioids to 14 days. Approved in second reading in House.SF 57 — Setting a deadline for the release of public documents by government agencies. Awaiting report of “joint conference committee” to resolve Senate, House differences.

SF 119 — Making all expenditures by the state auditor’s office public and available for review. Died without review in House Appropriations Committee.

SF 129 — Repealing requirements for reports from the state Department of Education. Awaiting governor’s signature.

SF 148 — Allowing the state to seize and operate federal facilities — including national parks — under certain conditions. Killed in House Minerals Committee.

SF 149 — Creating a “Capitol Complex” around the state Capitol and giving the state building commission authority for planning in the area. Approved in first reading in the House.

SF 160 — Requiring changes in voter party affiliation to take place two weeks before absentee ballots are distributed. Died without review by House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee.

SJ 3 — Declaring Dec. 10, 2019, as Wyoming Women’s Suffrage Day. Signed into law by governor.

Lodging tax bill moves forward in Senate

in News/Taxes

By Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would impose a statewide 5 percent tax on hotel and motel stays was approved in its first Senate review on Thursday.

HB 66 is set to receive a second reading Friday after senators voted 16-11 to approve it during the Senate’s “Committee of the Whole,” the full body’s first chance to review the bill.

If approved, the bill would require that money from 3 percent of the tax — about $19 million a year — go to the state Tourism Division. The division would no longer receive money from the state’s “General Fund,” its main bank account

Money from the other 2 percent would go to counties to replace income from their own lodging taxes when they expire.

Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, tried with an amendment to eliminate the extra 2 percent tax, saying that would make hotel stays too expensive for in-state travelers.

“It’s just making it more expensive to stay around Wyoming,” he said.

But Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, successfully urged the Senate to kill Case’s amendment, arguing local communities should be provided with a steady source of income to promote themselves.

“That allows for local communities to have a little bit of leverage,” he said. “Let’s give it to them.”

Senator says discussion of Wyoming’s tax structure must continue

in News/Taxes

By Cowboy State Daily

Attempts to change Wyoming’s tax structure must continue despite the defeat of a bill that would have created a corporate income tax, according to a legislative leader.

HB 220, called the “National Retail Fairness Act,” would have imposed an income tax on corporations such as large retailers that do business in Wyoming but have their headquarters in other states. 

But the measure encountered significant opposition and the Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee declined to review the bill before a Wednesday deadline for committees to finish their work.

Committee Chair Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, said he never brought the bill up because there was very little chance for it to win Senate approval.

Landen said discussions of how to change Wyoming’s tax structure must continue, even though many ideas raised will not be popular.

“That’s going to be difficult every single time we bring a bill like this one because everybody believes in that, they just don’t want it done in their backyard,” he said.

Backers of the bill in the House, where the bill was approved by a vote of 44-14, said it would have given the state a tool to get its share of the taxes already built into the cost of products.

“I thought it was a good tool for Wyoming to get some of the money from the big box stores that they’re already scheduled to pay,” said Rep. Bunky Loucks, R-Casper. “And they don’t really participate in the tax base of our state.”

In Brief: Corporate income tax bill dies without committee review

in News/Taxes

By Cowboy State Daily

A plan to impose an income tax on large companies that do business in Wyoming but are headquartered elsewhere died in a Senate committee on Tuesday.

HB 220, referred to as the National Retail Fairness Act, was not considered before a deadline for the Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee to finish its work on bills.

For any bills to be considered in the Senate, they have to be reported out of committee by Wednesday. Although the bill was on the Corporations Committee’s schedule for consideration Tuesday, it was not brought up before the end of business The Corporations Committee is not scheduled to meet again before the deadline.

The bill had been seen as a way for Wyoming to tap into a revenue source from large retailers. Supporters argued that such retailers build in the cost of income tax in other states into their prices and then do not discount those prices in states that do not have an income tax — such as Wyoming. The corporate income tax was seen as a way to collect the tax that was not being paid to the state.

Representative seeks cut in coal taxes

in News/Taxes

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

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

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

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.

Personal income tax dies, corporate tax moves ahead

in News

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.

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

in News

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

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.

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