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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

HB170 - Statist Logic Strikes Again

In last week's review of good, bad and ugly legislative bills I put HB170 in the "bad" category. This bill, sponsored by Representatives Wilson, Barlow, Hallinan, Larsen and Madden, and Senators Landen and Pappas, drastically increases the licensing fee for health care facilities. The state would now charge $5,000 for a new facility - up from the current fee of $500 - and would then a "renewal" fee of $1,000.

According to the bill, the sole purpose of the licensure fee is to pay for the costs of administering the licensing procedure. Therefore, the logical conclusion from this bill is that the bureaucracy that administers the licenses has expanded by 1,000 percent. 
From a common-sense viewpoint, the appropriate legislative response to such an inexplicable explosion of government administration would be to to downsize said bureaucracy by 90 perent. Hopefully, sanity will prevail in this case; as of Trump Day, the bill was referred to the Revenue Committee, so there is a fair chance it will make it to the floor with committee endorsement.

Normally, a bill with a fiscal value of $55-60,000 would not be much to argue about, but on occasion such bills are worth far more than their fiscal value. HB170 is a good example: the potential damage from this bill comes from the fiscal reasoning behind it, not the license fee increase it proposes. 

At a time when our state is bleeding jobs; when the private sector is in free-fall, declining more than eight percent in a year; a group of legislators find it more important to craft a bill of such eclectic fiscal value than to write legislation that could actually make a difference for the better for our children's future here in Wyoming.

But that is not all. I do not believe for a moment that the cost of licensing health care facilities has increased by 1,000 percent in one year, nor do I believe that it has happened over a period of years. There is little doubt in my mind that this bill, frankly, is a backdoor method for raking in more money from the private sector to make sure the government bureaucracy in Cheyenne can continue its business as usual. 

Viewed from this angle, HB170 represents a kind of dishonesty in the legislature's relations to voters and taxpayers.  

If the bureaucracy that administers the licenses for health care facilities has indeed expanded by 1,000 percent; if the sponsors of this bill can prove that licensing administration has suddenly become ten times more onerous; then I will accept their facts. That, however, does not mean I will accept their remedy; in that case, a removal of the license would be a far more rational solution.

In other words, the sponsors of HB170 represent precisely the kind of statist mindset that will continue to ignore the dire situation that our state is in. To them, protecting government administration is of such high priority that they are willing to go to great length to defend it. 

As if to really drive home the point that this bill is all about protecting government against the agony of downsizing, 
the bill suggests:

The department may establish by rule different licensure and renewal fees for health care facilities based on number of beds or clients.

At this point, I am almost tempted to call The Onion. According to HB170, a tiny revenue stream for government - so small it is barely visible with a fiscal microscope - is now going to bring in much more revenue to pay for a much larger bureaucracy, which will be needed because the fee will now be structured in such a way that it will take many more man hours to assess the fee per facility, than when the fee was small and flat. The bureaucracy, for which the fee hike and new, more complex fee structure is supposed to pay, is needed to administer the higher, more complex fee structure. The fee will use very last penny of the increased revenue to assess the right fee for the right facility, thus paying for itself with new revenue that it can only collect by spending that new revenue.

Feeling dizzy? I don't blame you. Let us walk through the attempted logic behind HB170 one more time.

In the beginning, there was a flat Fee. And the Taxpayer saw that the Bureaucracy was small, and that it was good. 

Then the Legislator created the Fee Hike, and said: Let there be more revenue. And there was more revenue, and the Legislator saw it, and it was good.

Then the Legislator said: Let there be many different Fees. And the many different Fees sprawled across the health care facilities, and many a Bureaucrat worked many days to keep track of them. 

And the Bureaucracy cost many more monies, and the Fee Hike and the many different Fees gave the Legislator many more monies. And the Legislator saw more monies, and it was good, for the many more monies paid for the many more days that the Bureaucracy had to work.

And on the Seventh Day, when the Bureaucracy rested, and the Legislator suffered from fiscal hangover, the Taxpayer rose from his bed, went to Church and asked God for guidance. 

And God said: Let there be an Election. And the Legislator saw the Election, and it was not good.

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