Legislative work reflects Wyoming values
Returning home from our two months in Cheyenne, we want to express our gratitude for the opportunity to serve and represent our Wyoming people in our citizen Legislature. Walking through the hallways of the Capitol, we are awed by looking at the photographs of those who have done this work for prior generations and fully appreciative of the opportunity to do some real good for our state.
We in Wyoming are truly blessed. We have the smallest state budget in America. We have zero debt. We are saving for the future with nearly one-third of our budget paid for with interest from our savings. This allows us to maintain the lowest tax burden in America. Truly incredible, truly conservative – and truly rare.
We operate differently in Wyoming. Our way of doing things, also known as the Code of the West, is what distinguishes our state from the rest of the world. Our unique position allows Wyoming to fund a world-class education system, grow our economy and live a life of liberty, free from government overreach. This session, we faced multiple attempts by outside Washington, D.C., interests to infiltrate the people’s house like never before, encroaching on Wyoming people’s priorities and promoting a narrative that is far from the truth. This effort is putting our conservative, common-sense Wyoming way in jeopardy.
So, it is important to set the record straight. This year, the Wyoming Legislature passed one of the most conservative supplemental budgets ever. We saved $1.4 billion. This is a historic, never-before-seen amount of savings. Despite this act of consequential fiscal stewardship, 25 House members from the Freedom Caucus voted against it, calling it an “abuse of taxpayers.”
The supplemental budget bill pays $8 million for property tax refunds to residential homeowners, restores deep cuts made during the pandemic to health care for Wyoming’s poorest citizens, fully funds K-12 education and brings pay for state employees up to their 2013 real wage levels. The supplemental budget restores funding for dental care for the approximate 40,000 Wyoming children on Medicaid who need it. The supplemental budget also allocates $129 million for the construction and maintenance of schools and $70.4 million for an inflation adjustment for K-12 teachers, staff and school operations. The supplemental budget bill does right by our Wyoming people, providing tax relief, strengthening Wyoming schools and providing help to the most vulnerable among us.
A vote against this strong, fiscally conservative budget was a vote against: saving, investing, seniors in nursing homes, health-care providers, disability-care workers, disabled citizens, preschools, wildlife preservation, the State Fair, Wyoming art and culture, teachers, bus drivers and custodians, cops, firemen, prison guards and snowplow drivers, just to name a few. Again, 25 House members of the Freedom Caucus voted “no.”
We heard our Wyoming neighbors loud and clear on the topic of property-tax reform and we worked to deliver results. Nearly 20 bills were filed to address this topic but, in the end, just a few withstood the judicious process of creating good law. Amongst the successful efforts was SJ3, a proposed constitutional amendment to create a separate classification for residential property. This is an important measure because without it we can’t give residential homeowners a property-tax break without also giving the same tax break to companies such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot. Voters will have the opportunity to let their voices be heard on this proposed constitutional amendment in the next General Election.
Another measure, HB99, helps low-income property owners by increasing the median income qualification level for a tax refund, as well as raising the percentage of refund up to 75 percent of a homeowner’s property-tax bill.
As kids growing up in Wyoming our parents would tell us to be humble and to watch out for people you run into who claim to be smarter or more moral. They taught us to work with others with the purpose of integrity and truth. The ones who in fact boasted the most about who and what they are were actually the most lacking in those traits. This time it is the ones who claim freedom, transparency, conservatism, patriotism and liberty who are actually the most lacking in those traits. These are operators of the Code of Washington, D.C. and not the Code of the West.
Thank goodness we are much better than that in Wyoming.
Albert Sommers is the Speaker of the House and has served in the Legislature since 2013. Clark Stith is House Speaker Pro Tempore and has served in the Legislature since 2017. Steve Harshman is the Chairman of the House Revenue Committee and has served in the Legislature since 2003. Bob Nicholas is the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and has served in the Legislature since 2011.