Imagine you’re the Town of Shoshoni, and you have $20,000 sitting in a safe.
Do you take the money next door and deposit it at your local credit union?
You send an employee all the way to Riverton to put the money in a bank.
It’s the law. The State of Wyoming only lets public entities deposit money in banks.
A group of local legislators got together this year to change that rule, but their proposal failed 14-16 in the Wyoming Senate.
“Big banks were able (to) turn a couple votes,” Shoshoni Mayor Joel Highsmith said. “So instead of walking next door and making a deposit, (we have) to drive to Riverton to deposit our cash.”
Legislators who voted against the bill said it was unfair because credit unions aren’t subject to the same federal taxes and regulations as banks.
“Credit unions (are) subsidized,” Wyoming Sen. Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, said.
He introduced an amendment to the bill that would have delayed its enactment until credit unions were subject to the same federal requirements as banks.
“On the topic of an equal playing field I’m very sensitive,” he said.
But the playing field is already unequal because credit unions aren’t allowed to work with public entities, Wyoming Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, argued.
Nethercott, a former Fremont County resident, sponsored the credit union bill along with local legislators Tim Salazar, Lloyd Larsen, Andi LeBeau, Ember Oakley, Pepper Ottman and John Winter.
She agreed with Dockstader that the federal rules are “unfair,” but she said her bill was not meant to address that issue – it was designed to fix an “absurdity” in Wyoming law that forces small towns to drive long distances to deposit money in a bank.
“It just doesn’t work,” she said. “It’s creating a real hardship for those smaller communities.”
She noted that similar bills have been proposed at least five times since 2001, guessing that the proposals continue to fail because of “the relationships that we have with (the institutions) where our public deposits are currently located – as opposed to any other pragmatic or legal reason.”