The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 27 - 3/2/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Printed on this page is an opinion piece by University of Wyoming President Philip Dubois. In his piece, Mr. Dubois articulates the pervasive "tax and spend to improve our economy" dogma being spewed by the Governor, and Republican leadership in the State Legislature. I'm sick of it.
First, Dubois, the Governor and the Republican leadership are telling us we have to raise taxes in Wyoming (they call it 'finding new revenue sources' to address the state's budget deficit, and stabilize Wyoming's tax system.
Importantly, these are two separate issues. Concerning the state's budget deficit, what upsets me is that Wyomingites are only being presented with a choice of new taxes. We're being told that new taxes are needed, and being asked, "Which ones do you want?"
The problem is, there are two ways to bring budgets into balance. The first is to increase revenue, or raise taxes. The second, on which I've heard very little discussion, is to cut spending. The people down in Cheyenne are only talking about new taxes, and they're not giving Wyomingites a similar set of choices for spending cuts. We need to challenge this.
It certainly would be nice if the state had a "stable" revenue source. Budgeting and planning efforts would be easier because the state's revenue would not be held hostage to the boom and bust cycles in the minerals industry. However, I'm not willing to increase taxes on working Wyomingites so government agencies have an easier time of budgeting. The average annual wage in Wyoming in 1998 was approximately $25,000. Sublette County's average annual wage was even less - just $21,860. News flash to Mr. Dubois and the Republicans in Cheyenne - WE'RE NOT RICH! SO WHY DO YOU WANT TO RAISE OUR TAXES!
In his opinion piece, Mr. Dubois talks about "risk", "sacrifice," and "courage" which he says we need to make long term improvement in Wyoming's economy. Mr. Dubois is devious. He doesn't come right out and admit that he's advocating tax increases. Instead the wants us to "invest" in "infrastructure" and education as a means of improving our economy. But Mr. Dubois knows as well as anybody that the state doesn't have enough money as it is. He knows that the money for the "investment" he's calling for can only come from new taxes.
On Monday, myself and Clint Gilchrist, one of the Journal's Editorial Board members called Mr. Dubois in Laramie to question some of the points he makes in his opinion piece.
When we pointed out to him the average annual wage in Wyoming, and challenged his not admitting that he was advocating tax increases he tried to dodge the question by saying that it was inappropriate for him to comment on the state's tax system.
In terms of the future of Wyoming's economy, Mr. Dubois said he's convinced that Wyoming needs more people to have a stable, growing economy, than the approximate 450,000 who reside here now. He wants to use new taxes to invest in "infrastructure" and "education" which will attract business and people to Wyoming.
I challenge this notion that Wyoming needs more people to have a strong and diverse economy. New Hampshire and Vermont, for example, don't have many more people than Wyoming, yet these states have stronger and more diverse economies. We should go there and learn how they do it.
We were able to get Mr. Dubois to identify specifically what he means by "infrastructure." He had three ideas, transportation, air service, and Internet access and telecommunications.
We don't have a transportation problem in Wyoming. Everyday, people in Pinedale and Big Piney get overnight deliveries from FedEx and UPS. According to Mike Aldrich of Bike Bagz in Pinedale, he's never had a problem shipping his products out of the state. Besides, what would we do improve "transportation" anyway? Expand the road to Rock Springs to four lanes? Cover the road from snow?
I think "better air service" is also a bogeyman. The air service Sublette County has now certainly doesn't prevent millionaires from buying trophy homes and flying in from Jackson. Most of the small and medium size businesses in Wyoming right now don't need to fly on an airplane somewhere else with any frequency. Is our air service really that much worse than South Dakota's or Idaho's - two states that have growing technological industries?
I'm also beginning to think that high speed Internet access and telecommunications is another bogeyman. Broadband Internet access is needed for sound and video transfer over the Internet. To me, this primarily means entertainment. But it is not needed for regular Internet commerce. For example, the Cowboy Shop is operating a store on the Internet without high-speed access.
Further, according to LaBarge's George Archuleta, the future of Internet communications is wireless. This is what the CEO of Amazon.com said Tuesday. He believes people will be surfing the Internet using their cell phones in the near future. If wireless is the near future, why spend millions investing in landline telecommunications improvements now?
Throughout our conversation, Mr. Dubois said this investment was needed to attract new businesses to Wyoming. I'm sick of this dogma that we have to look somewhere else to solve our problems. Why not invest in what businesses here already need - and focus on growing our economy from within?
Further, isn't there something basically wrong with the idea that raising taxes will improve the economy? This doesn't add up to me!
Finally, Mr. Dubois implies that Wyomingites are suspicious to ideas from outsiders. He's right, but so what? I challenge Mr. Dubois to find another state in America whose natives don't feel the same as we do. This is just natural, but it can be overcome with good, well reasoned and well argued ideas.
At one point in our conversation, Mr. Dubois came right out and said people in Wyoming don't pay enough taxes. He said he built a large, fancy home in Laramie and the property tax bill on it was way too low. "Back in North Carolina," he said, "my taxes would have been much higher."
Mr. Dubois, if you like paying higher taxes, move back to North Carolina! I like living in Wyoming because it has lower taxes! Does he really think he can make feel guilty because Wyoming has low taxes?
Mr. Dubois is not the first newcomer to move to Wyoming, live here a couple years, and then want to change us so we're just like the place he came from! No wonder we're suspicious.
Ultimately, though, I'll forgive Mr. Dubois (he'll learn to like the low taxes). I won't forgive our Governor, the Republican leadership, or our local state senators and representatives, though, if they raise our taxes. Beware, gentlemen
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