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If you don’t trust your town officials to keep a lid on sewage spending, this amendment to the Wyoming Constitution looks good. But there’s more to it.

The proposed constitutional amendment will end the constitutional limit on the amount of indebtedness municipalities can incur for sewage projects and instead give the Legislature additional power over local debt for such work.

As it reads now, Section 5 of Article 16 of the state constitution limits municipal indebtedness to 4% of the assessed value of the taxable property in each town, but also allows additional debt equal to another 4% expressly for sewage and water systems.

The change, if approved, would remove local power to assume the second 4% in debt and substitute language that would allow debt above the initial 4% “as the Legislature may by law prescribe.”

But while it looks like tighter control, the writer of the amendment, Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Fremont County, doesn’t see the change as an automatic cut but a potential way to increase the amount of debt that can be incurred. He said that 4% additional debt is often too little and that letting the Legislature set the limit “gives us much more flexibility in the future if we need to adjust that cap up or down.”

The Wyoming Association of Municipalities supports the amendment, describing it as a way to invest in infrastructure for municipal sewer systems to keep those systems working properly. And WAM lobbyist and former Jackson town manager Bob McLaurin noted that it’s rate payers and not property owners who pay the bill.

The amendment passed the Wyoming House 45-12 and the Wyoming Senate 27-2. All the no votes were Republicans.

Contact Mark Huffman at 732-5907 or mark@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mark Huffman edits copy and occasionally writes some, too. He's been a journalist since newspapers had typewriters and darkrooms.

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