During debate on the House and Senate floors, it is common for lawmakers to note that only three counties — Park, Fremont and Sublette — have not enacted the fifth-penny tax, while Wyoming’s other 20 counties have done so. It is only fair, …
Mayor Scott Mangold is considering asking for a proposal for a fifth-penny tax to Park County voters this fall. While the timing might seem questionable, there are reasons why this proposal should be considered seriously.
The first is the likelihood that, at some point in the future, the Wyoming Legislature will require communities to help themselves before coming to the state for a handout.
During debate on the House and Senate floors, it is common for lawmakers to note that only three counties — Park, Fremont and Sublette — have not enacted the fifth-penny tax, while Wyoming’s other 20 counties have done so. It is only fair, some say, that cities and counties that have enacted the fifth-penny tax get top priority for state government funding, such as grant money from the State Loan and Investment Board (SLIB). Some even have suggested that enacting the fifth-penny should be a requirement for receiving SLIB grants and other state funding for local governments — something of a help-those-who-help-themselves approach.
With the first 4 cents of sales tax, 69 cents of every dollar goes to the state, and Park County gets the other 31 cents. But 100 percent of a fifth-penny sales tax would stay in Park County to benefit the county and its municipalities. And, here in Park County, that would carry additional benefits, since the sales taxes collected at some places in Yellowstone National Park benefit the county.
Some counties, such as Natrona and Laramie, routinely pass the fifth-penny tax. In Cheyenne, the tax pays for much of the city’s street maintenance, buys library books and provides grant matches for fire trucks. Signs near street projects often let residents know the project was made possible by the fifth-penny tax; many library books carry stickers advising patrons that the fifth-penny tax paid for them.
While the fifth-penny tax is a viable option for cities and counties to raise needed funds, it’s important that any proposal be weighed carefully to make sure that the tax actually is necessary, and that the money it raised would be spent prudently and on projects or efforts supported by the public.
The recent city survey should provide some guidance in that area in the event that Mangold and leaders of other Park County communities continue this discussion.
With today’s emphasis by many on reducing government spending, any proposal to increase sales tax will face an uphill climb. But raising money at the local level to benefit the community and its residents makes a lot more sense than sending it to Washington, D.C.