Posted by: Scott | Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Gov. Freudenthal courts voters

Monday Feb. 13th the annual State of the State address kicked off the Wyoming Legislature budget session. Typically, the Governor address a joint session of the State Legislature, followed by the State Supreme Court Chief Justice address the same group. This year’s event included a speech from the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate.

Why this occurred seems to be unknown. There seems to be no known precedent for this Perhaps they all wanted their time on the Public TV camera, sort of like the response to the State of the Union, except in this case, all speakers have the benefit of an audience response.

A common theme ran through all speeches about being different from the elected officials in Washington, D.C. It causes one to wonder if there have been rumblings of stalling tactics in Cheyenne.

I do have to admit, that although Gov. Freudenthal is not a Republican, he is fairly conservative (though there are issues that I would disagree with him on). A number of “western Democrats” are. However, I have already stated my excitement at Ray Hunkins’ throwing his hat in the ring for the upcoming gubernatorial election and I look forward to doing what I can to support the Hunkins for Governor campaign.

Gov Freudenthal was quick to point out the difference between state level politics and national level politics. In fact he brought it up a few times. While there may be a place for bipartisanship, there is also a place for partisanship. Let me state though, that partisanship should be in reason. Filibustering executive nominees is not within reason. On the same lines, I don’t believe that the majority party should be forced into standing down from their beliefs.

Back to the speech. I am not going to go over every point. I will provide a link where you can read it for yourself and make up your own mind. I have to admit I felt somewhat let down. I hoped to hear more about the delisting wolves and grizlies issue. It never came up. I hoped to hear about widening of highways. That almost came up. I understaand, this session is a budget session, so the majority of the issues are going to be financial. However, the Govornor did seem to remember this is an election year and that he is in Wyoming. My jaw nearly hit the floor when I heard these words from Gov. Freudenthal (D-WY):

Let us spend a moment on local government funding and our relationship with the cities and counties in general. Ronald Reagan, before he was president, spoke for many of us when he said, “I still believe that the government is best which remains closest to the people, but almost daily the Goliath that is the federal government moves to gather more power unto itself.” We under the gold dome are not yet as bad as Washington, D.C., but I fear that through the power of the purse we are adopting an increasingly federal posture toward our elected friends in city and county governments. …Tax dollars that actually belong to the taxpayers should be directed to the local governments that most directly serve those taxpayers. Rather than reducing my recommendations, I would encourage you to add to them.

Quoting the late great Ronald Reagan? Well, he did used to be a Democrat. To clarify, I have no problems with the governor quoting Ronald Reagan. I am quite aware of prominant Republicans quoting President Kennedy to support lower taxes. President Reagan was a fine American respected and loved by many. I am not quite sure what the Governor meant by “adding to the recommendations.” As far as returng taxpayer money to the level of government closest to the people, I’m all for it!

There has been much talk about decreasing the state sales tax. The issue has had various ideas presented, tax-free energy bills, tax-free food (an idea I very much like), but this one presented by the Governor, again, I was shocked, pleasantly shocked, that he reminded the legislators of a point that has not yet come up:

However, there is one tax relief obligation created by the legislature in 1995 that we can fulfill without new legislation. In 1995 the legislature extended and made permanent a fourth cent sales tax. There is a little noted and apparently not long remembered provision of this extension that provides that at the time financial solvency returns, the sales tax be reduced by one-half of 1 percent, thus reducing the statewide sales tax to 3 and one-half percent. This action does not require two-thirds vote for introduction or the passages of separate legislation. The budget bill alone can trigger the reduction in taxes and will simply allow $35 million to remain in the general fund as required by Wyoming Statute 39-15-104(d). The 1995 Governor’s message clearly articulates that the extension of the fourth penny sales tax was to be limited and that one-half of 1 percent was to be removed when revenues increased. Now, the estimated cost of this action was about $73 million a year, and that includes appropriation that would be necessary to keep local governments funded. This action is taken meaning a 12 and a half percent reduction in the state sales tax and means 73 million more dollars in the taxpayers’ pocket. We are certainly not in a position now to tell the public that no tax relief is appropriate in view of this statutory language and our current financial circumstance.

Wyoming is indeed in a financialy solvent position (large surpluses several years running now). I support this call to lower the sales tax to 3.5%. I still support the idea of making food tax free though!

You can read the entire speech here

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Responses

  1. I disagree with the food tax exemption. This only reduces an already limited tax base in Wyoming and yet creates another administrative (more government) issue for the Department of Revenue.

    The sales tax rate should have been automatically reduced by .5% or the rate should have been cut from 4 to 3. This is the most efficient way to handle tax releif for the people of Wyoming.

    By cutting the temporary tax back to 3, the legislature would have opened the door for future tax increases when needed. This idea that any cut will not be temporary is ludicrous . Future legislators could have banked the graditude and actually gained some trust from Wyoming citizens through such an action. Instead they want to hord money and play games to satisfy the will of lobbyists supporting more government programs and spending.

    The increased spending in State and local government is appalling. Some poor local governments revenue streams have been helped, however rich cities, towns, and counties were also given additional revenues. Why?

    Local government is best, however less government is even better. Less government is something I have never seen!

  2. Thanks for commenting!

    I agree that the .5% cut should have gone into effect (or even a full 1% as you suggested). My support of tax-free groceries comes from reading material on the Fair Tax (a proposed replacement for the Federal income tax), which is a federal sales tax that doesn’t tax neccesseties.

    Having said that, I have my share of disappointments with this last session, but that’smore than I have time to write at the moment.


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