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307 Politics: Are people starting to warm up to revenue?
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307 POLITICS

307 Politics: Are people starting to warm up to revenue?

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Capitol Building

The roof of the Wyoming Capitol peeks through the trees in July in Cheyenne. State legislators may be more open to revenue-generating measures in the upcoming budget session.

It seems some politicians are warming up to legislating for revenue generation.

After Gov. Mark Gordon announced his willingness to consider a statewide lodging tax last week, members of the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee had an earnest conversation Friday in favor of supporting one, reviving a bill that moved swiftly through the House of Representatives in 2019 before suffering a swift death in the Senate.

One of the few new taxes supported by Gordon as well as heavy hitters like Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, a lodging tax seemed one of the few likely revenue measures of the 2019 legislative session. Backed by industry and hashed out over a long interim, the bill was eyed as one of the few “realistic” revenue options considered, both for its relatively low impact to Wyoming residents as well as for a universal desire to fund the state’s Department of Tourism through a more stable mechanism outside of the state’s general fund.

The bill ended up failing – panned by critics as a tax on Wyoming residents. However, members of the JAC on Friday expressed optimism that a coalition could be built around it and, if supported by the committee, could potentially be put on the fast track for a Senate vote within the first week of the 2020 Budget Session.

JAC co-chair Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, said the bill would likely need leadership’s full endorsement to move ahead.

“We could use all our political clout,” he told committee members Friday. “Even if we have to grin and bear it, I want 100 percent of the committee to support this thing.”

“This has to be a combined effort,” he added.

Many still have reservations about the legislation. Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, said that a number of hoteliers in his district are concerned over potential impacts they would see at home from the bill’s passage, while others expressed their own concerns over the way the money generated from the tax would be allocated.

While no decisions were made on whether to support the bill, Friday’s meeting represented some of the first signs of leadership in a tax-shy Legislature discussing the wholesale endorsement of any type of tax. Though the lodging tax was one of the most broadly-supported proposals on the floor last session, many influential members of the Legislature broke ranks with leadership, hung up on the bill’s unpopularity with constituents.

However, with all major revenue options failing in committee during the 2019 interim session, Nicholas suggested the Legislature as a whole could be more likely to support the bill if made into a priority by leadership.

There may be other surprises too: controversial in its own right, a proposal to impose a toll on Interstate 80 received an unlikely endorsement last week from Americans For Tax Reform economist Sven Larson (formerly affiliated with the Wyoming Liberty Group), who argued that self-funding the maintenance of I-80 could give the state room to reform its vehicle registration tax to “be purely and exclusively a funding model for the rest of our highways.”

A corporate income tax, however, will be the most-attention grabbing revenue bill in 2020. Sponsored by Rep. Jerry Obermueller, R-Casper, the bill has been given favorable treatment by lawmakers at the committee stage, who feel it deserves a fair hearing. The bill appears poised for success in the House, since it passed there last session and has been improved upon since then.

In the Senate though? Well, stranger things have happened.

The Week AheadMonday:

The Wyoming Legislature’s Appropriations Committee kicks off week two of budget mark-up. Governor’s Financial Transparency Working Group meets in Cheyenne.

Tuesday:

State Land and Investment Board meets in Cheyenne. Wyoming GOP to host executive committee phone call. (Closed event).

Wednesday:

None.

Thursday:

Transportation Committee meets in Cheyenne. Judiciary Committee meets in Cheyenne. Hannukah Celebration scheduled to take place in the state capitol.

Friday:

None.

Weekend: None. (Note: I’m flying back to New York to see my family for the holiday and, while there will still be a newsletter next Monday, there will not be one the following Monday. Sorry for the inconvenience!)

Have an event you’d like highlighted here? Email me with the date, time, and place!Wyoming PoliticsNichols: Publishing records would lead to public ‘trial and lynching’: Former University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols does not want records related to her demotion released to the public, even as her attorney argues that the board of trustees could have violated university policy in its alleged investigation into her performance. (via Trib.com

)

Lawmakers weigh pay raises for top officials: Is it time to give the governor and other top officials a pay raise? Lawmakers might do just that this winter. (via Trib.com

)

Cynthia Lummis bets Senate campaign on alignment with President Trump: U.S. Senate Candidate Cynthia Lummis – once a Trump critic – is now full-bore aligned with the president, betting her campaign’s messaging strategy on a close alignment with the president. (via Trib.com)Around Wyoming

Family, community members call for greater transparency into Anderson Antelope’s death: Some residents of Fremont County are calling for the release of more information from police about a September shooting that killed 58-year-old Anderson Antelope, who allegedly attacked an officer with a knife (via Wyoming Public Media

)

WMC says it withstood malware attack: Leadership within Wyoming Medical Center says the Casper hospital was targeted by a malware attack this year – part of a growing trend of similar attacks seen toward medical facilities throughout the state. (via Trib.com

)

Evanston meets its would-be economic savior, CoreCivic: WyoFile’s Andrew Graham takes a look at a proposed Immigrations and Customs Enforcement facility being eyed for Evanston. (via WyoFile)Eye On Washington

John Barrasso was profiled in the Washington Examiner

about his changing position toward climate change – a significant turnaround for a Republican whose state depends on fossil fuels. However, he remains reluctant to embrace Democratically-supported energy policies, calling them “over-prescriptive.” The Senator also joined EPW colleague Tom Carper to introduce America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act, which would reauthorize or establish several important government wildlife conservation programs.

Barrasso was also a lead sponsor on a bill to amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which would require the Secretary of Energy to establish a carbon technologies program.

Like other Republicans, Barrasso spent a fair amount of his week embroiled in impeachment proceedings, strategizing with fellow members of Senate leadership to prepare for a trial in the instance the House moves forward with articles of impeachment.

Mike Enzi

introduced a bill this week outlining a process to end government shutdowns in the event of disagreements over the budget – a long-term goal of his. He also signed onto the Revitalizing Underdeveloped Rural Areas and Lands (RURAL) Act, which would allow some telecommunications grants to be tax-exempt for the build-out of broadband in rural areas.

Liz Cheney co-sponsored several pieces of legislation, including a resolution recognizing the 50th anniversary of Taco John’s. Cheney also joined more than 70 of her Republican colleagues in sending a letter

to Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) requesting a minority hearing controlled by Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee as it weighs impeachment against the president.

Cheney also made an appearance at home this week, speaking at the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association’s annual luncheon in Cheyenne.

Have any tips or suggestions to make this newsletter better? Let me know! Call me at 307-266-0634, email me at nick.reynolds@trib.com or follow me on Twitter, @IAmNickReynolds

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Politics Reporter

Nick Reynolds covers state politics and policy. A native of Central New York, he has spent his career covering governments big and small, and several Congressional campaigns. He graduated from the State University of New York at Brockport in 2015.

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