State Rep. Jim Roscoe is running again, and his focus is revenues.
“We can’t say taxes,” Roscoe said. But he acknowledged the reality: “It is taxes.
“Wyoming citizens are simply not used to paying for the services that they get,” he said, naming education, roads, infrastructure, law enforcement, fire and emergency services, and the judicial system as a few examples.
The state’s revenues are cratering, in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state anticipates a 30% decline in sales tax collections in the 2021 fiscal year, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.
A larger slice of the sorry economic pie is a slowdown in fossil fuel production, which pumps massive sums into the state budget and is expected to plummet 50%.
All told, Wyoming is looking at a budget shortfall of $877 million from its general fund budget by the end of June 2022. That’s a reduction of almost one-third, the Tribune reported, roughly the amount of all statewide education spending.
Governments can increase available funds by cutting spending or raising taxes.
Roscoe, an independent, said that only one of those methods by itself won’t be sufficient: “There’s no way to cut our way of this.”
And he doesn’t want critical services like education to fall by the wayside.
“We’ve enjoyed these low taxes for a long time,” he said, “but I would be ashamed to sacrifice education by just refusing to raise revenue. That’s really on the chopping block.”
So that leads the representative, who sits on the state House’s revenue committee, to taxes. Specifically what taxes is up in the air.
Roscoe said he would be loathe to support a blanket personal income tax, but he might be able to get behind a corporate income tax.
Same with a graduated personal income tax that only the highest earners — say, those who make more than $300,000 a year — would have to pay.
“That would help a whole lot,” he said.
There also is potential for a fuel tax increase, which he would support: “We’re lower than any other state around.”
The other part of increasing the state’s fiscal picture, in his mind, is attracting new industries. And to do that, he said, the state needs to invest in infrastructure.
“That, of course, involves good roads, expanding broadband and better cell service around the state so people can work remotely,” Roscoe said.
And it requires fully supporting local governments, “so we can keep our towns and counties nice,” and maintaining a quality education system.
“I think one of the biggest attractions for younger people moving in with good ideas is good public education,” he said. “We have really good public education now, and it would be a shame to see it go down.”
Roscoe has served in the House for a total of six years: four between 2009 and 2012 and again since 2019.
He represents House District 22, which covers Wilson, Hoback and swaths of Lincoln and Sublette counties, and serves on three committees other than revenue.
One is the standing Labor, Health and Human Services Committee. The other two are select committees on natural resource funding and water.
Roscoe will compete with Bill Winney, a Republican from Bondurant, for the seat. The filing deadline for major party candidates has passed, but Roscoe is running as an independent and will not have to file until later this summer.