Public Speaker on Public Issues

 

TAXES TALK — BUT ARE WE REALLY LISTENING?

Who hasn’t seen the topic of taxes appear in the newspapers during this past budget session of state legislature? Making ends meet has been a struggle for elected officials. No one likes to see taxes go up, but Wyoming prefers to meet its obligations.

It’s a worthwhile Investment of our time to take a minute and reflect on why balancing Wyoming’s checkbook has become increasingly difficult.

Concerns over preserving the quality of our lifestyle surface all the time. This worthwhile goal is, in fact, more easily achievable then first meets the eye. Sometimes, looking back is a way to see the future. Knowing what lifestyle we want preserved is only one side of the coin-the biological side. Knowing why we have it is the other-the economical side.

The ecosystem in Wyoming reflects the time-tested balance between its biologic and economic systems. The historical industries are what have, over time, provided open spaces, few people, lots of wildlife, and lots of money to the state and county coffers. Balancing the checkbook was easier. It is this balance, worked out over time, which is now at greatest risk. Maintaining this balance is, however, our ecosystem’s insurance.

Oil, gas and mineral extraction are the major reasons Wyoming has no income tax, and low property taxes---so far! These provide high paying jobs with disposable income, efficient employee levels, and entail remarkably small amounts of land area. Timber activities have fostered wildlife habitat, improved timber volumes per acre, and most importantly forest health. All of this, plus big dollars returned by law to our state and counties. It’s our added good fortune that years of experience have taught these industries how to do so in an environmentally enhancing fashion. All of these industries beneficially produce a great deal more than they consume.

These stronger profit margin industries have paid for much of our high ticket items, such as roads and schools. They have also had a direct positive effect on ranching and farming. These smaller profit industries, with wide expanses of land, had been able to flourish without the burden of heavy property and income tax. A direct outcome of their efforts to irrigate and bring land into production has been vastly improved winter wildlife habitat over "pre-settlement" conditions.

Winter range has served the outfitting, guiding and hunting industries beyond anyone’s expectation or general recognition. A very significant thing to remember is that winter range is the weakest link in our area’s biological balance. We cannot have higher game populations than what the winter range will support. Expanded winter range exists because of ranch and farm stewardship. There is a direct connection.

All of these industries, integrated with tourism and recreation, are the stable caretakers of our ecosystem. People come to see not what was, but what is the. They want the experience, not the memory. We offer a living history, not a carnival culture where we dress the part, but no longer live the part.

Wyoming has always earned its own way, and pulled its own weight in contributing to our nation’s needs. To shut down or minimize the proven benefits of our state’s economics is to create an imbalance. Such philosophies and policies only encourage a welfare economy of government subsidies and guarantee the manipulation that does go along with it. It has never been Wyoming’s way to do less and take more.

These wonderful historic industries are the foundation of this state. Keeping them viable is an insurance policy other states can only envy. More importantly, however, is that these foundational industries allow Wyoming to be selective in its economic recruitment efforts. It prevents development out of desperation.

It has become harder and harder for our state to meet its financial obligations. Let’s recognize this for the simple reality that it is—the famous cumulative effects of political environmentalism. Withdrawals being made against Wyoming’s assets in its name are eroding our state’s economic base. Only across-the-state citizen involvement can stop this negative trend.

Talk is cheap, but it will never balance the checkbook.

Permission granted to reprint in full or part with full credit given to author.

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