If you were a resident of Lincoln County back in 2018, you might remember the herculean efforts of the sixth-penny supporters who tirelessly advocated for its passage. As they exist, sixth-penny taxes are temporary project-based taxes that are levied throughout a county in order to fund community-specific needs. These needs act as a sort of community wish list, with potential requests including things like a garbage truck or an amphitheater.
“We selected our projects to be about $4 million worth of roads, including Canyon Road [back in 2018],” city administrator Brian Muir said.
“Roads are not just a cost. I see it as an investment in your economic development as well. Who’s going to want to locate their business in a community that’s got potholes all over the place?” he said.
Once passed, the tax would fund projects in a specific order, determined by the appropriate governing bodies for each community involved.
Ultimately, the 2018 measure was narrowly defeated in a county-wide vote. However, watchful readers who stay up to date on all the latest committee meeting videos from the Wyoming Legislature might have spied Kemmerer’s own Brian Muir speaking to the Joint Revenue Committee on Sept. 30. Alongside Muir were also Rep. Scott Heiner, who briefly spoke during the meeting, and Sen. Fred Baldwin, who spoke via Zoom.
Their goal? To persuade the committee to revise a key phrase in the law’s language to allow the creation of special taxation districts. After some back-and-forth during the meeting, the committee agreed to advance the measure to the next stage of the process: drafting the bill and bringing it to the floor. Ultimately, the legislature will also need to approve the change with a two-thirds majority vote— something that may be easier said than done. Muir also hopes to be back in Casper for that next step.
“Our argument was, if you’re not going to use it, then why don’t we carve out our own little section to do the projects in our section, and help pay for it with revenues from our area,” Muir said about the city’s decision to explore alternatives.
Although many of the specific details are still up in the air, Muir suspected that this hypothetical area would be based on voter precinct data from 2018. He also stressed that, should the legislature return a favorable vote, any proposed districts would ultimately be approved by the county commissioners.
“We would be very transparent about [the process], of course,” Muir said.
And as longtime residents may recall, the tax was narrowly defeated in the northern (and more populous) parts of the county, with approximately 48% voting for the measure, compared with an average of 64% in the southern parts of the county voting for it. In the end, the difference was about 700 votes. Here in Kemmerer, there was about 59% support for the measure, with 616 voting for, and 258 voting against.
An oft-cited reason for the failure of the 2018 endeavor was the lack of any meaningful projects for northern communities.
“One thing that I’ve talked with people up north about is they just need some better projects to connect with the people. One great example would be if they wanted to do a rec center up north,” he said.
Muir also explained that, should the legislature decline to change the wording of the law in question, their next course of action would be to try another county-wide vote for the sixth-penny tax.
With regard to how much the proposed tax might bring in, Muir explained that this too is up in the air, entirely contingent on where the district lines would eventually be defined. Should the special taxation district eventually be set up for a temporary period of time, a specific community project would be matched with the forecast revenue, so as to ensure the completion of at least one project.
While the Joint Revenue Committee will be bringing this issue up again in the near future, Muir was deeply thankful for all the support that he has seen throughout this process.
“We appreciate their support of the previous vote, we really appreciate how much people are willing to do to make their community better, and we’re looking forward to some really good projects that we’ll prioritize so that we can take care of their needs,” Muir said.