While Wyoming has a storied history as a leader in ranching and agriculture, it is now working to become a pioneer in robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning that will propel the state’s economy into the 21st century and benefit consumers and businesses alike. But a bill rushed through the state House threatens to undermine the state’s status as an innovation hub and could rein in the next generation of Wyoming’s economic growth.
State senators must now step up and oppose this bill to sustain Wyoming’s progress toward building a modern, 21st century economy that works for everyone.
This week, the Wyoming House passed HB 220, which would impose a new corporate income tax on large companies that have brought their businesses to the state. Unfortunately, House members rushed this bill forward without any meaningful debate. The Senate must now press pause and consider the unintended consequences it could have on opportunities for investment in the state’s economy and its effects on consumers.
Attracting 21st century companies that can offer new types of jobs as we transition into a more modern economy has become a crucial goal for any forward-thinking state, and Wyoming has been leading the way for businesses of all sizes. Microsoft has invested $750 million in data centers across the state, while blockchain entrepreneurs have capitalized on a first-of-its-kind initiative that offers investments to cryptocurrency startups to help power the growth of this emerging industry in the state.
Wyoming residents can look forward to the state continuing to spearhead growth in these industries, as Governor Gordon recently announced in his 2019 State of the State address that his administration would be “doubling down on research and innovation” as a part of Wyoming’s efforts to diversify its economy.
But imposing a corporate income tax threatens the boundless opportunities that Wyoming offers for companies looking to root themselves and grow in the state. The Wyoming Business Council has highlighted the state’s low taxes and light-touch regulations as a primary driver for attracting business growth in the state. This arbitrary tax increase threatens to remove this advantage and could push companies to look to neighboring states like Montana, Idaho and Nebraska as their next testing ground for innovation.
HB 220 also poses a serious challenge to consumers in the state. Some of Wyoming’s retail industry has faced challenges in bringing the latest offerings to its communities. The City of Laramie, for example, had to hire a retail consultant to address “retail gaps” that caused residents to leave town for goods or services.
Large retailers like Walmart and Target bridge this gap by offering cutting-edge services and 21st century conveniences to consumers in Wyoming. However, by making the state less attractive for these businesses, lawmakers could curtail retail sector growth while simultaneously eliminating jobs and decreasing the hours and wages for those Wyoming residents employed by these companies.
Wyoming has proven that the path toward creating a dynamic economy is paved by partnering with new, innovative companies — not by putting up new economic barriers to modernization. Simply raising taxes on a select few companies is not a viable solution for growing a 21st century economy that works for residents, consumers and businesses alike. In fact, corporate income tax revenues can swing dramatically from year to year, and Wyoming trails only Alaska as the most unpredictable state when it comes to overall tax revenues.
With budget funding for critical services such as education, transportation and public safety on the line, Wyoming communities cannot rely on these uncertain revenue raisers. Instead, state lawmakers should make it a priority to bring all economic stakeholders from across a variety of industries to develop long-term plans for sustainable growth in a modern economy.
HB 220 will take Wyoming down the wrong path of trying to spark economic growth by imposing misguided taxes on innovative companies. State senators should vote No on this bill and instead foster opportunities for companies to grow in Wyoming and continue to bring the benefits of the 21st century economy to consumers across the state.