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(COMMENTARY) Pressure works: Wyoming Freedom Caucus moves 30 legislators over 15 points in 3 years

Wyoming State Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette

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Dear Gillette,

The Wyoming mainstream media, in its unending quest to promote and protect the political establishment, shared the good news that over 30 legislators have sponsored legislation to provide some tax relief in Wyoming.

Published in the Buffalo Bulletin and shared widely via the Wyoming News Exchange, the proposed 5% property tax cap and those sponsoring it are given glowing treatment. The fact that Johnson County Rep. Barry Crago has sponsored a bill to provide a property tax cap of any kind is certainly newsworthy.

In 2021, the Wyoming Legislature had the opportunity to cap property taxes at 3%, but establishment lawmakers increased it to 20% before killing the bill altogether. Had this 3% cap passed, the average Wyoming homeowner would have over $1,000 more in their bank account today.

Last year the establishment, including Rep. Crago and other sponsors of this year’s proposed cap, thwarted multiple attempts to cap property tax increases. The people of Wyoming are being taxed out of their homes, and they took notice of the failure to cap property taxes. They also took notice of who is responsible for it.

Whether due to a change in heart, some strong polling data, or some combination of the two, the newly proposed 5% cap is proof that pressure works. The Wyoming Freedom Caucus, along with the people of Wyoming, have made it clear that our property tax system is immoral and needs to be fixed immediately. Pressure works, and the insiders are feeling it.

Unlike the establishment insiders, conservatives don’t decide how to vote on a bill based on who brought it. While the bill, House Bill 45, is flawed, the Wyoming Freedom Caucus will make every effort to fix those faults via amendment.

To begin with the good news, the bill would take effect this year, providing more immediate relief to those who qualify, and would stop double and triple digit increases in some assessments — but not everyone qualifies — and the bill’s language even suggests that the relief may only be available for one year.

The relief in House Bill 45 does not extend to homeowners who make any improvements to their property. We simply shouldn’t penalize Wyoming citizens who upgrade their homes. What’s worse, the cap on tax increases doesn’t apply to the land your house sits on, allowing the assessment of that land to compensate for the cap on the structure.

Also, the relief does not extend to commercial properties, punishing Wyoming residents who own their own businesses or who manage properties for a living. And as we all know, those evil “big corporations” will simply pass their tax burden onto us, the consumers, resulting in increased costs for goods and services.

The Wyoming Freedom Caucus and our conservative allies in the Wyoming House of Representatives will use every opportunity to cure these defects via amendments, and we will do so on the record. The people of Wyoming will be able to see which legislators vote to expand and improve upon the proposed relief.

Wyoming’s property tax system is immoral and needs reformed. Unfortunately, tax-and-spend insiders in both parties hold a majority in Cheyenne and see no need to reform the system. Until more conservatives are elected in 2024, we will work to expand relief as widely as possible while setting the stage for real reform.

Rep. John Bear
Wyoming House District 31

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