Gordon says property tax reform should be ‘wise, sustainable, forward-looking’

    Wyoming Sen. Tim Salazar, R-Riverton, asked Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon to offer his perspective this week on the property tax reform measures that might be proposed during the legislature’s upcoming budget session.

    Gordon had just presented the Joint Appropriations Committee with his own budget proposal for the coming biennium, which includes a $20 million allocation to support the statewide property tax relief program that was established last year.

    The program has distributed $8.3 million to a total of 9,000 households so far, Gordon said, providing “targeted relief to those who most needed it” without “compromising a county’s ability to meet the needs of its citizens and schools.”


    “By all accounts, the program worked well,” he told the JAC. “I propose expanding that program (to) help provide relief over the next two years to those struggling to stay in their homes.”

    Relief ‘in statute’

    Gordon said he also looks forward to “working with legislators on a wise, sustainable, and forward-looking approach to property tax relief in statute,” noting that, “no matter how we approach this important question, we must be doggedly thoughtful to avoid unintended adverse consequences.”

    Later, Salazar thanked Gordon for his comments about “helping those on fixed incomes with regard to the property tax issue.”

    “I had a town hall meeting on Saturday, and that was the No. 1 issue,” Salazar said. “Do you have any thoughts, beyond the referendum issue, (on) individual attempts coming during the budget session … with regard to property tax relief or property tax reform?”

    In response, Gordon said he would “look carefully at all of the proposals that the legislature puts forward,” explaining that, while the property tax question is “a county issue more than a state issue,” Wyoming would still have to “backfill” lost property tax income that affects a county’s “ability to meet the obligations its citizens expect.”

    “My largest concern is that we understand where those tax dollars are going to come from that re-fill the coffers that might otherwise not have the benefit of taxation,” he said.


    Wyoming Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, agreed with Gordon, citing “preliminary analysis” that shows the property tax referendum Salazar mentioned would result in a $200 million reduction in school funding over the coming biennium and a $60 million reduction in funding for cities, towns, and counties.

    “The question is, where would the money come from … to supplant (that) funding?” Nicholas asked.

    The answer to that question “is something that we would have to wrestle with, absolutely,” Gordon said, predicting that “we would have to look for different sources of revenue” or “cut government services” – two “challenging” prospects.


    The situation could also result in “misrepresentation on taxation,” Wyoming Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, pointed out, because the counties that have levied more optional taxes would receive more “backfill” funding from the state, creating “inequity” and a lack of “representation on how those tax dollars are going to be spent.”

    Gordon agreed that “local representation” could be impacted if the state ends up backfilling lost property tax revenues.

    The legislative session is scheduled to convene Feb. 12.


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