CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming House of Representatives passed a bill on third reading during their Thursday, Feb. 20 floor session which aims to allow counties to impose special purpose sales and use taxes and place the money collected into reserve “rainy day” fund accounts.
House Bill 25 will now move to the Senate for consideration.
Counties in Wyoming are already able to impose so-called “sixth penny” sales and use taxes for special purpose projects. Under current rules, such special purpose taxes must go toward specifically defined project and cannot go into a reserve account.
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The proposed bill would allow such “sixth penny” to go toward special projects as well as reserves.
Two amendments passed in the House ahead of Thursday’s vote.
House District 48 Representative Clark Stith proposed an amendment that would modify how the revenue generated by special purpose taxes would be distributed.
“The current draft gives the county commissioners exclusive control of that,” he said. “What this amendment would do would say that county commissioners are not going to be the sole controllers of this account.”
“This amendment restores some balance to House Bill 25. These sixth penny taxes generate lots of money. The cities will essentially have to beg the counties for money [without the amendment].
He said his amendment would stipulate that revenues would be distributed proportionally between the county and municipalities.
House District 06 Representative Aaron Clausen opposed the amendment, saying that it should be left up to individual counties to decide how such revenue is shared with municipalities.
House District 01 Representative Tyler Lindholm said that he also opposed the amendment.
“It’s not like the majority of people are living out in the rural parts of the counties,” he said. “Those voters are living in the municipalities. They are not going to vote for something that doesn’t benefit municipalities at all.”
The House adopted Stith’s amendment. They also adopted an amendment proposed by House District 31 Representative Scott Clem.
Clem’s amendment removed a provision that counties could impose a sixth penny tax exclusively for the purpose of saving money in reserves. With his amendment in place, counties would still get the new ability to place “sixth penny” revenues in reserves, but only if the tax is imposed in conjunction with a specific special purpose project as well.
“You can have this reserve account, but it has to be attached to some kind of special purpose,” Clem said.
His amendment removed stipulations in the bill on how counties could utilize reserves, instead leaving that to them to decide.
House District 06 Representative Aaron Clausen explained the bill during an introductory vote on Feb. 11.
“What this is geared for is these counties that are maybe losing a power plant or a coal mine to be able to stock some money away, similar to what we do for the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund, to help them rely less on state funds and be more self sufficient,” he said.
That so-called “trust fund” is an account which collects severances tax revenue on mineral production in the state. It was established in 1974.
The bill would allow counties to deposit special purpose tax revenues in similar reserve accounts.
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