Tax-averse Wyoming hurts itself

  As other Western economies boom, Wyoming is trying to rein in a large budget deficit without raising taxes. The Equality State Policy Center, a nonprofit public-policy advocacy group, doesn't share Wyoming's romance with "no new taxes," and says taxes on the state's minerals industry are an overlooked source of revenue. A report released by the group says coal production in the state increased 110 percent between 1987 and 1997, while natural gas production grew 145 percent (HCN, 10/25/99: Keeping 'em down on the High Plains). Meanwhile, mineral severance taxes have expired and industry tax breaks continue. The report says that mineral companies in the nation's number-one coal-producing state are also getting a good deal when it comes to reporting and collecting taxes. Presently, companies pay their tax bill under an honor system that allows them to report their own production and taxes. Not all companies are audited and when they are, the findings are not made public. Before Wyoming tries to trim fat from a bare-bones budget, the group recommends that the state restore mineral taxes to historical levels and revamp the way Wyoming audits and collects those taxes.

For a copy of the report, Putting Together the Pieces ...Wyoming's Budget Crisis, call 307/332-0156 or visit the Equality State Policy Center's Web site at

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