During speeches kicking off the start of the 2019 legislative session, the Senate and House Republican legislative leaders say it's time to look closely at expanding Wyoming's tax base.
Senate President Drew Perkins and Speaker of the House Steve Harshman both argued that it's time to modernize and expand Wyoming's tax structure in an effort to address changes in energy revenue. Fluctuating oil and gas prices, plus a downturn in the coal industry has made relying just on revenue from mineral severance taxes a challenge.
Senator Perkins made it clear that he's not calling for a tax increase, but he said it's time to consider lifting some of the tax exemptions the state currently allows, so that more can pay for services.
"It's not about increasing the tax burden for our residents, it's about having visitors to our state pay their fair share for the cost of services they enjoy while visiting," said Perkins. "They need to help pay for those services which stem from good roads to better managed wildlife."
Perkins added that it's also important to continue to watch spending, but he said stabilizing revenue is important.
Speaker of the House Steve Harshman also addressed broadening the tax base. He said the state has some critical needs and lawmakers need to look beyond cuts.
"We have the fewest state employees in over ten years. We've cut $400 million from our budget and I think at some point you're not going to cut your way to prosperity," said Harshman.
Senate Minority leader Chris Rothfuss said broadening the tax base seems to have gotten a lot of support from legislative leaders and this session will be their best shot to accomplish that goal.