It’s time for Wyoming to quit believing in magic fairies.
1 of 5 Things You Must Know This Month
The people and businesses in a galaxy far, far away that will pay our bills don’t exist. I guarantee it, or my name isn’t Rumplestilskin.
I am sure most all of us have seen the Wizard of Oz and at one point in our childhood dreamed of the good witch Glenda and magical ruby slippers. It’s positive for children to make believe and have wonderful thoughts of magical events. The problem is, when we become adults those whimsical thoughts should disappear. In the 2020 State Legislature I worry that some of our elected officials haven’t quite embraced the fact that magical creatures are fun to imagine as children, but it’s a little unbecoming to believe in their existence as community leaders.
I understand that many of you think I have dropped my basket at this point and wonder what in the world I am talking about. Our state is in a situation where we spend more money than we take in. Simply put, we live in a welfare state (I know several of you are now going into cardiac arrest and others are trying to figure out how to utilize Tom Horn’s noose depicted at the county building.)
The fact is, as Wyomingites we don’t pay our own bills. Our contributions as citizens don’t even come close to paying our own freight. We throw around numbers related to this gap ranging from 10K - 50K depending who you are listening to and what political goal they have in mind. (Pay attention we are getting ready to talk about the magic fairies.) Our behavior and our rhetoric have indicated that coal interests, oil interests, renewable energy projects, and big box stores can cure the ills of our financial situation. The fairy waves her wand, and magically, the citizens of Wyoming can demand more and more public services and pay no more in taxes.
The latest magic wand comes in the form of HB64 National Corporate Tax Recapture bill. I think we should name it the “Cat Bill” since it has used almost all 9 lives. Thankfully, the bill is dead for the 2020 Legislative Session. The bill gets killed time and time again and keeps resurfacing. You might remember this bill from last year’s session. The bills “purpose” is to collect income tax from companies that take money out of Wyoming but don’t pay taxes here. The bill specifically takes aim at big box retail outlets and franchise organizations. The problem is that while the legislature’s good intentions make good sense to them, scores of attorneys and accountants continue to argue that it will be much broader in practice than outlined. Perhaps the one thing that folks on all sides of this issue can agree on is that it initiates an income tax in the state of Wyoming. It might be narrow, but it is still an income tax. One of our primary calling cards for business and we are getting ready to toss it away.
Let me be clear! I understand our challenges related to our structural deficit. The Chamber's related committees talk about these issues constantly. It’s also important to understand the political climate. Our message should be clear. If we are going to talk about increasing taxes, then let’s have the conversation. We need to talk about the issue openly, honestly, and sincerely with the understanding that we might cut out part of the welfare state that we have all come to depend on.
Honestly, I think its past time to have this discussion and your Chamber of Commerce has put a lot of effort in preparing for the event. Those of you who believe we can somehow magically get someone else to pay our bills with no repercussions - get clicking the heels of those ruby slippers and maybe everything will be all right. Are you clicking those slippers? Because I think I see flying monkeys coming right at you. Good luck!
- Dale Steenbergen, President/CEO of the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce