The state’s budget shortfalls and ongoing uncertainty surrounding the energy industry pose challenging questions for our leaders. And with the gubernatorial race heating up, questions about how our next governor plans to handle those obstacles are more important than ever.
And while Wyoming’s economic future remains uncertain, what’s clear is how Wyomingites feel about taxes.
The reddest state in the country has made no qualms about opposition to raising taxes. And the candidates for governor wouldn’t get very far if they ran on a platform of raising taxes to increase revenue. But a push for the candidates to take a no-tax pledge has yielded surprising — and encouraging — results; most of the candidates opted out of the pledge.
And we’re glad. Because the pledge is problematic for a number of reasons.
First, a blanket refusal to raise taxes isn’t motivated by what might be best for Wyoming residents, but rather a need to prove so-called authentic fiscal conservatism. Whoever Wyoming elects will serve for four to eight years, and during that time, there’s no telling what measures will be required to keep Wyoming’s economy viable.
And not all taxes are created equal.
The all-encompassing pledge doesn’t seem to consider the potential need to raise taxes for various services. And it overlooks any potential unknown need to raise taxes that our government may one day face. Instead, it values “true” fiscal conservatism above the needs of Wyoming.
Let’s be clear here: We aren’t saying that raising taxes is the solution to Wyoming’s problems. We are saying that we don’t think signing a blanket pledge is more important than doing whatever might be right for Wyoming’s economic future.
It’s also important that our leaders are answering to Wyoming residents and not to outside interest groups like the one calling for the pledge. The group Wyoming Prosperity may think that hardline opposition to taxes is an essential quality in our future governor. But that doesn’t mean most Wyoming residents do.
A platform that calls for raising taxes likely won’t endear any candidate to the voters; but the no-tax pledge only endears them to a special interest group. And a candidate who would cater to special interests and lobbyists before the needs of the people they serve is not the right candidate for Wyoming.
Most candidates have refused to take that pledge. But none of them have endorsed raising taxes, either. They may be truly fiscally conservative. They may endeavor to avoid raising taxes for the entirety of their term. They may believe raising taxes is the wrong way to address revenue shortfalls. But they also don’t seem to think that the no-tax pledge is what Wyoming needs from its governor.
Neither do we.
Wyoming needs a governor who will be willing to do the unpopular if it means building a future for the next generation of Wyomingites. We need a governor who will do the right thing on behalf of Wyoming, not on behalf of a political label.