Thursday, November 30, 2017

Education Funding and Teacher Salaries

The Education Recalibration Committee is meeting again. The Casper Star Tribune reports that one of the committee's consultants has presented his findings on the current model for school funding in our state:
A funding analysis of parts of Wyoming’s education system showed that the state spends similarly to its peers in those areas, consultants told lawmakers Wednesday. “It’s comparable to all the studies in general,” consultant Mark Fermanich told lawmakers on the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration, which is conducting a broad examination of Wyoming’s education system. 

How broad?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Government Pay-Value Disparity

Government employee compensation is a recurring issue in the public policy arena. Since my response yesterday to a reader question about the compensation of employees in government and the private sector, I have received another question about the broader relationship between government employee compensation and government productivity. Since the measurement of government productivity is technically complex - not complicated - and therefore time consuming, for the purposes of this blog I have to restrict myself to a more basic measurement: the relationship of value production to employee compensation. 

Before we get lost in the technical details, let me summarize the findings:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Government Workers Are Well Paid

A blog reader sent a link to an article over at Ballotpedia, discussing the ratio of state and local government earnings to earnings in the private sector. The article, published under Ballotpedia's Verbatim Fact Check banner, explains its purpose:

In a column in September about Connecticut’s budget woes, Matt Walter, executive director of the State Government Leadership Foundation, urged the governor to endorse changes to state-employee union benefits. According to Walter, "Connecticut is extremely generous with its employees, who earn 42 percent more on average than the average private-sector worker in the state — the highest disparity in the country." Is Walter correct? Do Connecticut state employees earn 42 percent more, on average, than private-sector workers in the state? Is that the highest disparity in the country?

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Say No to HR 4174, Part 1

Welcome back.

We start off with a Congressional bill that could have major implications for the current and, especially, future independence of Wyoming as a state. The bill in question, HR 4174, could make it much more difficult for us to carry out necessary reforms to Medicaid, K-12 education and other federally sponsored programs. 

The proof is in the pudding. Superficially, HR 4174 looks like a bureaucratic bill that has few if any policy implications. However, a closer look reveals that HR 4174 is much more than that. It actually lays the cornerstones for the statistical infrastructure that the federal government would need if it wanted to create big, new entitlement programs. 

Put bluntly:

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Republicans Need to Talk Ideology Again

My latest blog article for the American Institute for Economic Research discusses the role of ideology - or lack thereof - in current Republican politics, especially their botched Obamacare repeal:

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Wyoming GDP Growth: A Closer Look

Every time the Bureau of Economic Analysis releases a new set of GDP data, it is almost a taste of Christmas for us national accounts nerds. Today, the BEA published second-quarter GDP data for the several states.

And an interesting set of data it is. We need to take a look at it, because what is superficially some really good news will be used by some legislators - and, I fear, Governor Mead - to motivate both more government spending and higher taxes.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Life Is Not a Budget Item

Thanks in good part to Senator Bouchard, we have been informed about the proceedings of the Labor and Health Committee meeting this week. One of the bills discussed in by committee has to do with organ donations (allegedly 18LSO-0302). What we know so far is that this bill would change the presumption of consent: unless you opt out, you would be an organ donor.

With the reservation that I have not seen the actual bill - it is not available on the committee website - it is worth taking a closer look at what motivates the very idea that we should all be presumed organ donors.

On the face of it, this sounds like a good idea. After all, who needs his body after death? 

Friday, November 17, 2017

County by County Jobs Update, Part 3

Here is the third, and final, installment of the survey of jobs and earnings by county. We have already seen that private-sector employment is down in almost every county; reluctantly, our state and local governments have slowly begun adjusting their workforces downward. That process, though, is neither fast nor big: the Government Employment Ratio (GER) has gone up and remains high across the state. In six counties, the GER is higher than 400; in three of those it exceeds 500!

Simply put: there are counties in Wyoming that depend more heavily on state-and-local government jobs than some European welfare states.* 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Another Leftist Ad-Hominem Rant

For the most part, the political discourse here in Wyoming is civilized and respectful. The only consistent exception from that is when the far left gets involved. Every time they speak up, it seems as though they have to throw foul language and ad-hominem attacks at people they don't like. Perhaps the most pathetic example of this version of verbal mudslinging is found on a website called Blabber Wyoming

On November 15 this outfit did another personal hit job on a Republican they don't like. Their target this time is Wyoming Republican Party Secretary Charles Curley, and the reason is his testimony against higher taxes at the November meeting with the Revenue Committee. 

County by County Jobs Update, Part 2

On Tuesday, I reported the latest county-by-county jobs numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I noted that there has finally been a change for the better in the balance between private and government jobs: the state, our counties, cities, towns and school districts have begun adjusting their workforce - slowly, though - to the serious decline in private-sector employment. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Republican Path to Single-Payer

My latest piece for the American Institute for Economic Research:

With their apparent political agony before the universal-coverage principle, Republicans in Congress have opened the door for America’s egalitarians to further expand government’s role in medical care, and our lives in general.  

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

County by County Jobs Update, Part 1

Yes! Time for another update on employment and earnings by county! Today, let us take a look at employment. 

As explained in the September TRENDS report from the Department of Workforce Services, some parts of the state have - not surprisingly - taken a bigger beating than others.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Millionaire Tax Coming to Wyoming

 A state lawmaker from Jackson is working on a bill that would allow voters in Teton County to decide whether to tax the sales of million-dollar homes. Rep. Andy Schwartz said it would allow county commissioners to ask voters to approve the tax on homes that sell for $1 million or more. It would range from 1 percent to 2 percent based on the price. The bill would only apply to counties where annual property sales exceed $600 million. Teton County is the only one that meets that threshold although Schwartz, a Democrat, is open to lowering the figure if other counties want the taxing option. Wyoming Realtors president and Jackson real estate agent Devon Viehman says such a tax would make all housing less affordable.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Refuting the "Rural State" Argument

How many times have you heard that Wyoming needs a big government because we are a rural state? I have heard it so many times that I decided to do a little number crunching to see whether or not there is any truth to this statement. 

The answer is: no. Wyoming is still an outlier, perhaps even more so in this context than usually.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Some Victories - And Moving Forward

Dear Friends and Adversaries (yes, I know you read this blog...),

It has been a good couple of days so far this week. The Joint Revenue Committee, under the stewardship of Representative Madden, is on the defensive. They did not dare confront us voters and taxpayers in their meeting this week. Instead, they postponed as much as they could of their agenda to their meeting December 4-5, also here in Cheyenne. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Your Civic Duty: Drink and Smoke

Yesterday the Revenue Committee cowardly defaulted on its promise to actually consider, debate and vote on a stack of bills to raise taxes. Too many of you let them know what you think, so instead of getting the message and refusing to raise taxes, they simply postponed their contribution to Taxmageddon. 

Not all of our legislators express such shame over their desire to grab more of our money. Some of them are open and honest about it, and for that they deserve recognition. An honest statist is more respectable than a dishonest conservative. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Investment Income Is No Tax Substitute

Friends - good news! At its meeting here in Cheyenne today, the Joint Revenue Committee postponed its hearing of testimonies - and, most important of all, its votes - on a series of tax-hike bills. They are scared to touch these bills; they are feeling the groundswell; your voices matter!

That does not mean they have given up. They are going to try again at their next meeting, in the first week of December. They are betting you will have forgotten about it by then.

But you won't.

Monday, November 6, 2017

That "Funding Gap" Chart Again

Today, the Revenue Committee gets together here in Cheyenne to decide what tax hikes they are going to send to the legislature for its 2018 session. Predictably, as part of their arguments, the tax hikers once again rely on the so called "funding gap" chart from the Economic Analysis Division. This chart is supposed to show that we taxpayers only pay for a few percent of what we get from government.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

When Liberals Got Together - All Five

The left has a habit of accosting meetings held by conservatives, where they often behave disruptively and aggressively. Conservatives always allow them to come, and show them both courtesy and respect. So, I decided to see what would happen if I attended one of their meetings. 

Today, TaxWyoming - a coalition of leftist factions such as BetterWyoming, FurtherWyoming and such - held a meeting between 4PM and 5PM down at a bar here in Cheyenne. I went there at 4PM, sat down and looked through one of their "brochures". I did not talk to anyone, just sat there and waited to see if they were actually going to have a meeting. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Wyoming Can Benefit from GOP Tax Plan

Yesterday, the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives finally presented their tax plan. Or reform, if you want to be generous.

This is not a great reform. Or plan. By a stretch, it is a good plan. The most accurate conclusion is that it is "alright". Halfway between a cheeseburger and broccoli.

Don't get me wrong - there are a couple of really good features in this tax plan. The cut in the corporate income tax stands out as the single best idea of them all, especially since it is combined with a full expensing of business investments. This is going to have substantial effects in capital-intensive industries, and it is definitely going to make us stronger in the next recession.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Your Property Tax Will Go Up

Here you go, folks:
AN ACT relating to ad valorem tax; increasing the property tax assessment rates for property used for industrial purposes and for all other property as specified; providing for the creation of and distribution of funds to the property tax refund program account; providing sunset dates; specifying applicability; and providing for an effective date.
This one is not yet listed under the Revenue Committee as a bill draft, but it is written to be sponsored by the committee. Currently known as 18LSO-0144 Working Draft, this bill wants to: