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Saturday, February 25, 2017

A New Chapter for Wyoming

Dear fellow Wyomingites - we can all breathe a little bit easier now. SF 131, the HIT bill (Highway to an Income Tax) died with due dignity on Wednesday February 22. Here is the vote count:

Ayes:
Representative(s) Blake, Bovee, Burkhart, Byrd, Connolly, Court, Crank, Eklund, Eyre, Freeman, Furphy, Gierau, Haley, Harshman, Henderson, Kirkbride, Madden, Miller, Paxton, Pelkey, Schwartz, Sweeney, Zwonitzer

Nays: 
Representative(s) Allen, Barlow, Biteman, Blackburn, Brown, Clausen, Clem,Dayton, Edwards, Flitner, Gray, Greear, Hallinan, Hunt, Jennings, Kinner, Larsen, Laursen, Lindholm, Lone, Loucks, Macguire, Nicholas, Northrup, Obermueller, Olsen, Piiparinen, Pownall, Salazar, Sommers, Steinmetz, Walters, Wilson, Winters 

Excused: 
Representative(s) Baker, Halverson, Mckim 

On behalf of all taxpayers in our great state: a big Thank You to those who voted to put an end to this bill.

Now, though, the real job starts for our state.
We have to seize this unique opportunity to put our state's fiscal house - government - and economy on the right track. I have written several times about specific reforms that would do the trick. Let me therefore, for now, summarize a "work order" that would turn our state from the national macroeconomic disaster zone it is today, into a powerhouse of prosperity and optimism:

A New Chapter for Wyoming

1. Instead of a commission for new tax revenue, the state legislature should appoint a commission for structural, permanent, reductions to government spending. This commission would identify necessary and workable reforms, outline a time table for them and specify the legislative steps needed to execute them.

2. We also need a commission for regulatory overhaul. It would map, identify and eliminate regulations on private business activity. In particular, they would identify regulatory "hot spots" that would greatly facilitate business operations and investments in Wyoming.

3. An efficiency study and implementation plan for government operations. The point here is to both pave the way for structural reforms and to buy us some time to implement the long-term, permanent reforms that the aforementioned spending commission will outline.

4. As part of the efficiency study, we can start right now with cost-containing reforms to Medicaid. On Friday, February 25 the Wall Street Journal reported that several states have already begun the work to reform their Medicaid programs in the direction of cost containment and reduce the program's appeal as a general entitlement. Explains the Journal:
Maine, for example, may limit most people on Medicaid to five years of benefits. Kentucky could require many recipients to work. Wisconsin exants to drug-test enrollees. ... Conservative legislators and governors in Arizona, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin are at the forefront of requesting ... waivers to the Medicaid program. ... Republicans say the new requirements would allow states to pursue innovative approaches to health-care provision that would lower costs. They add that requiring beneficiaries to have "skin in the game" makes them more involved in their care, leading to better patient outcomes
Would it not be great to see Wyoming on this list?

5. An application to the White House and Congress to allow Wyoming to become an experimental state for reforms to federally sponsored programs. The point here is to give our state full control over every program where there is federal money involved: we simply "re-route" personal federal income taxes paid by Wyomingites into the state coffers, thus cutting the regulatory ties between Washington and Cheyenne. The point here is to do all kinds of reforms to Medicaid, education, transportation, welfare, law enforcement and any other program that is currently co-sponsored by the federal government. Once we have this independence, we can eliminate, privatize and outsource programs as we see fit here in Wyoming without having to ask Congress or the President for approval.

6. Begin the reforms to turn Wyoming into an economic freedom zone. This is not to be mistaken for the irresponsible "prosperity zones" that Compact for America has proposed; unlike the "prosperity zone" the focus of which is to benefit predatory capitalism, an economic freedom zone is focused on strengthening, preserving and developing a free-market based economy. In order to implement an EFZ in Wyoming, we would need to coordinate the deregulation of the private sector with structural, permanent reforms to government spending. This is not difficult - essentially, all we would need is a coordination effort between the efforts under points 1, 2 and 5 above for the purposes of minimizing government spending, regulations and taxes and strengthening entrepreneurship, innovation, local communities and personal responsibility.

If we could rally the legislature, the governor and ourselves around these six points, put differences and special interests aside, and roll up our sleeves, we could get all of this done.

Are you on board?

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