Policy discussions and a look forward at state funding - Dec 2015/Jan 2016
The Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation's 96th annual meeting recently concluded in Cody, Wyoming. I would like to thank the folks from the Northwest District for hosting our meeting and the folks from the Cody Holiday Inn for making it a successful meeting. The amount of work that goes into putting together one of these meetings is amazing and we had a dedicated staff that worked long hours to help put it together.
Policy discussions and elections are the main reason for our annual meeting and our members come to the meeting prepared to discuss and advocate for their particular side of the resolution. This year we certainly had a good discussion on many diverse issues. One of the most contentious discussions came about when discussing Sharia Law and its possible implementation in the United States. Discussion on this topic was followed the next day by the attacks on citizens of France by radical Islamic terrorists.
We have seen that any nation can be subject to these attacks. The United States certainly lost a lot of citizens from terrorists, Spain has had citizens attacked, and it is an almost daily occurrence in the Middle East with terrorist attacks in Lebanon, Israel, and Iraq. Paris is just the latest and there will likely be others in the future.
Al Qaeda was the terrorist group which attacked the U.S. but a new off-shoot is the group that attacked France. It seems terrorist groups are like the mythical hydra where cutting off one head results in two more growing back.
Other policies which were adopted at annual meeting deal with the implementation of the sage grouse 9 plan, speed limits for commercial vehicles being set at different speeds than non-commercial and federal land management agencies actions when conducting controlled burns.
Early next year the legislature will convene. This is a budget session so of course the big topic will be the financial situation for the State. Wyoming's boom/bust cycle of funding state government occurs with predictable results. When things are booming there are a number of folks who come to Cheyenne in search of money to fund a favorite program. During a bust cycle, these same folks will attempt to prevent any cuts to their programs so predictably the only other option will be to raise taxes. Since Wyoming doesn't have an income tax, then the other method of raising revenues falls on sales or property taxes. Since the majority of tax revenue comes from the mineral industry and the current administration in Washington, D.C. has worked to reduce or eliminate many of our coal fired electrical generated facilities we probably won't see much of a rebound for some time.
That leaves us with the same old dilemma we always have faced. Raise taxes or reduce government. Farm Bureau has always advocated holding the line on government spending and argued against increase in property taxes. However, this is never a straight forward effort. People who want reduced government will generally look at someone else's program to cut and people who want to increase taxes generally want the big increase to be out of someone else's pocket book.
At the end of the day however, people in Wyoming need to realize that we cannot sustain the level of government we have without the mineral income. If we want to keep our government services the same as they've been then get your check book out because you're going to need to write some bigger checks.
By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President