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Fri Sep 21, 2018, 11:20 PM

Will allowing Wyoming cities to tax themselves solve their looming funding woes?

BUFFALO — Public officials at both the state and municipal levels were at an impasse this week on a bill that could significantly affect how Wyoming’s cities and towns levy their taxes.

At two separate committee meetings in Thermopolis and Buffalo this week, the state Legislature’s joint commissions on both Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions and Revenue turned over a bill to allow towns greater freedom and flexibility in how they tax their residents, independent of county governments. While the ethic of the bill — greater freedom for towns to create more tailored plans to raise revenues among them — was generally supported by lobbyists for both municipal- and county-level governments, advocates for local government expressed some serious misgivings about the bill itself, saying it does not actually address the revenue problems it was intended to solve.

The bill’s consideration is also being mulled over at a time where the state legislature is considering slashing its direct aid to municipalities by $105 million, creating a confusing link between two unrelated issues. First, the fact towns would lose funding with no real replacement coming from the state — assuming a proposed sales tax increase to 4.5 percent, which could fund an additional tens of millions of dollars in direct aid, fails. Second, the fact an imperfect bill to let cities and towns levy taxes, independent of county authority to raise money, is being pitched as a replacement for a slew of grant programs at the state level that have long since dried up.

With Wyoming containing only a few cities, while the rest of the state is dotted with small towns that barely generate revenue, critics say the intentions of the bill operate solely on the assumption that communities will enact these optional taxes. In reality, most of these towns have little, if nothing, to gain by doing so.

Read more: https://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/will-allowing-wyoming-cities-to-tax-themselves-solve-their-looming/article_566ff12c-ce1f-5b96-b63f-080ae6811e9e.html

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