A bill under discussion in the Wyoming legislature called tax liability mineral production may not sound important, but Sheridan Representative Cyrus Western, and other legislators, assure that it is. Counties see it as a step towards recovering taxes owed to them from mineral companies - ad valorem taxes.
"Going forward I think this is another good tool in the toolbox of counties to say, ‘Hey, you know what, you owe us money.’ We have the right to go forward," Western said.
SF 118 already passed successfully out of the Senate and last Friday, passed unanimously out of the House Revenue Committee. Counties have missed out on tens of millions of dollars due to mineral companies going bankrupt or simply not paying.
During the interim session, the Joint Revenue Committee discussed solutions to the problem focusing on a more regular collection timeline. While that failed, this bill would help counties recover missed taxes during the bankruptcy process.
"Personally, this is a band-aid type approach to a much larger problem," Dan Zwonitzer said, chairman of the House Revenue Committee.
But he said it's a positive step. "The four returning members of the committee, they thought this was the smallest step we could take to moving the ball down the field. To the new members of the committee, it just felt like the right thing to do," Zwonitzer said.
Hesid Brandow with the Powder River Basin Resource Council said there was no explicit voice against the bill. But banking advocates did seek an amendment to limit duplicate filings. Brandow said it would have decreased the effectiveness of giving counties a higher priority status - the amendment wasn't adopted.
A similar bill died several years ago due to banker opposition. Brandow said this time is different.
"Nobody wants to see this situation continue to snowball. I feel like the representatives are all in extreme support of the counties position and they understand how large a problem this is," Brandow said.
SF 118 is on the general file list to be discussed in Wyoming's House of Representatives.