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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Seven Questions for Our Next Governor

It is more than a year and a half before it is time to elect our next governor, but we can already see the contours of the field of candidates. According to the Casper Star Tribune, the following names are in the hat:
  • Secretary of State Ed Murray;
  • Former U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis;
  • State Treasurer Mark Gordon;
  • Former State House Speaker Ed Buchanan;
  • Darin Smith, who challenged Liz Cheney in the 2016 primary for Lummis's seat; and
  • The irreplaceable Taylor Haynes.

All these potential candidates would make good governors, each one in their own different way.
However, I have to give a special nod to Haynes, a man with an unrelenting ability to make other candidates look wobbly on principles and constitutional issues. 

It is unlikely that we will see much life in the gubernatorial race until next spring, but we can of course expect candidates to announce in the next few months. Therefore, I would like to take the opportunity to get my two cents thrown into the upcoming race. Here are seven questions about our state's economy that I would very much like to hear each and every 2018 gubernatorial candidate answer:

1. Our state government is running a deficit, and is predicted to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. In your best judgment, is this deficit cyclical - meaning it will go away if we just ride it out - or is it structural, i.e., will remain until permanent changes are made to the balance between spending and revenue?

2. Wyoming has the highest Government Employment Ratio of all the 50 states. Is this a problem, and if so, what do you intend to do about it?

3. Counted per student, we have among the costliest public schools in the country, yet our students do not perform on par with the exceptional cost. What is the best reform strategy to reduce the discrepancy between per-student costs and student achievement?

4. Should government use tax revenue to provide incentives to businesses to invest in Wyoming?

5. The minerals industry is very important to our state's economy, but its recent downturn has yet again exposed the negative side of Wyoming being essentially a mono-industrial state. What are, in your opinion, the most important reasons why our state does not have a secondary industry? 

6. Wyoming taxpayers pay more in personal federal income taxes than the state gets back in the form of Federal Aid to States. This means, for example, that parents in Wyoming pay federal taxes which then go through the hands of several federal offices and agencies, before being repatriated as designated funds for specific purposes. Is this a reasonable model for partly funding, e.g., our schools, our Medicaid program and our highways? Please motivate.

7. An average private-sector job outside of the minerals industry pays approximately $37,000 per year. During the 2017 session our legislators considered - and ultimately rejected - more than a dozen bills proposing higher taxes. Are you willing to pledge that, should you be elected, you will protect the average, non-minerals, private-sector employee against higher taxes for the duration of your gubernatorial tenure?

If I hear back from the candidates (don't bet on it...) and if they give me their explicit permission, I will publish their results unedited on this blog.

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