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State Senate Candidate Responses: How Will Mineral Taxes Impact Wyoming’s Future?

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(Gillette, Wyo.) Senate districts 1 and 23 in Campbell County have contested races this year.

As part of our goal here at County 17 of informing voters for the upcoming primaries, we are sending out unique questions for each candidate in those races to let you better know your candidates.

The primaries are Aug. 21.

Previous responses:

Why Should People Elect You to Represent Them in the Wyoming Legislature?

How do you plan to balance the time requirements with your own career or life?

Many believe that the world is undergoing a fundamental change with regard to the use of fossil fuels. How do you think Wyoming should prepare for this change given that nearly 75 percent of the state’s funding comes from mineral extraction? (limit 500 words)

Ogden Driskill (District 01)

Wyoming must prepare for it future in many ways.  One of them is to support new and innovative ways to value enhance what we currently have.  Nearly 100% of our products be they energy or agricultural are shipped out of state and sold on a wholesale basis.  We can create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in new revenue by further processing of currently produced products.  I am also a big fan of working with existing businesses to expand and grow.  Gillette, Newcastle and Hulett all have great examples of this.  Some big ones include L&H Welding, Cyclone Drilling, Dixon Brothers Trucking, Neiman Sawmill—the list goes on and on.  Local grown businesses understand Wyoming values and it culture and tend to keep our state a place that we all know and understand.  Bringing in businesses from other states is often costly and often brings in people who have a hard time acclimating to Wyoming’s culture.  We need to continue to push for our community colleges to train workers for real jobs that we have and do in Wyoming.  Gillette College has done an outstanding job of training, educating and putting Wyoming’s youth in the workforce—IN WYOMING.

We must push the University of Wyoming to align their educational programs to support jobs in Wyoming and support our industries and culture. Programs such as the X Prize, Carbon Capture research, etc all have great promise to help us diversify our economy and keep our culture intact.

By sponsoring blockchain legislation, I have helped Wyoming create more than 200 new businesses and is known listed among the tech states in the United States and Globally.  We need to build our base as being a leader in innovative ideas and technology.

Judy McCullough (District 01)

I think we need to remember that Wyoming has not always received 75% of its income from mineral extraction, but with the boom in oil, gas, minerals and coal it jumped up.  That does not mean other taxpayers have slacked off.  We need to keep taxes low in Wyoming, do some advertising of our great state, and cut the rules and regulations so the state is friendly to new companies and businesses.  We need to help our farmers and ranchers obtain better marketing options such as Country of Origin Labeling because when all is said and done agriculture is the base of Wyoming funding.  The agricultural people live and work in Wyoming and their assets are in Wyoming.

Lenard D. Seely (District 01)

Candidate did not respond to questionnaire.

Jeff Raney (District 23)

(No photo provided.)

Candidate did not respond to this question.

Jeff Wasserburger (District 23)

Wyoming has always depended on the mineral industry to fund approximately 70% of our budget. This has been a blessing and a curse.  The blessing is that our taxes are low, some of the lowest in the fifty states, and a curse because we think that we shouldn’t have to pay for governmental services and that the mineral industry can pay for everything.  Wyoming is seeing a fundamental change in requirements for fossil fuels particularly in the consumption of coal.  Coal production is down about 140 million tons from 440 million tons just five years ago to around 300 million tons or lower today.  This has cost the state about $140 million dollars in revenue and is some of the major reasons why the state is experiencing a structural deficit.  With the advent of electric cars, the world may continue to change even more.  With the development of wind and solar energy the entire electrical grid is changing and the reliance on coal as the sole source of electricity is near an end.  Furthermore, our customers for coal, utility plants that burn coal, are being phased out so that there are less and less utilities that use coal to fire their power plants.  I think that this will continue to happen in the next few years and coal production will drop.  Finally, people in cities like Seattle have chosen not to use electricity from coal powered plants and they are willing to pay more for power rather than leave a larger fossil fuel footprint.  Wyoming will need to diversify its economy and find ways to add value to coal.  One of the great things about coal is that it is very cheap and there is a lot of coal available as a feed stock.  I worked hard as a state legislator to bring in Atlas Carbon to the community of Gillette and I serve on the Energy Capital Economic Development board to try to bring new businesses to our area.  I will continue to work for economic development and diversification and will support projects that bring new companies to our area.  Some of the ways that I can do this is to support the Integrated Test Center at Dry Fork mine, the School of Energy Resources at the University of Wyoming, and the city of Gillette and its efforts to bring in new businesses to our town.