Moving into 2019, there is a lot to be confident about in Wyoming

It seems like those of us in the media love to focus on the negative. But here in 2019, we have way more positives to consider than negatives.

My first positive is the state Legislature and new Gov. Mark Gordon. I really liked the positive energy that has been coming out of Cheyenne during these first weeks.

My second positive is our Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. With Senators like Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and a U. S. Representative like Liz Cheney, we have a tremendous amount of clout.

As I write this, the government is still shut down, which has hurt a great many workers here in Wyoming. Hopefully our delegation can use some of their clout to solve this mess.

The past decade has seen a huge shift in national government as the country seems to be split 50/50 between red states and blue states.

People living on the coasts and in liberal places like Denver have become very progressive/liberal, and their ideas for moving the country forward sure have a socialistic feel to them. Many folks of my generation are appalled by this shift but our grandchildren seem to think it is okay.

On the other side are folks in our red states, who tend to favor more self-reliance, a bigger military and conservative approaches to education and taxes. But from Wyoming’s perspective, having folks like Enzi, Barrasso, and Cheney in place gives us influence way out of proportion to our population.

And when you talk about population, the blue state folks go crazy over the Electoral College. They point to two elections this century where their Democrat candidates, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton, scored more votes in the general election but still lost because of the Electoral College.

I love to remind anyone who will listen that when you look into the dynamics of the Electoral College, you find that Wyoming voters are the most powerful in the country. The average Cowboy State voter is four times more powerful than a similar voter in California. When it comes to electoral votes, each vote cast by Wyoming represents about 190,000 people. In California, it takes about 700,000 to create an electoral vote. These are the votes that actually elect a president in national elections.

I always love the New York Times map produced a few years ago showing the states when it comes to Electoral College influence. The map shows Wyoming as by far the biggest state with California the smallest.

Meanwhile, back in Cheyenne, reality hits home as the legislature is grinding through the early days of its general session.

Hundreds of bills will be considered. As I write this, some of the more interesting ones concern taxes. For example:

• There is an attempt to raise property taxes to balance our budget when it comes to funding education. This seems to have grudging support all around. But even after years of drastic cuts there are many folks who believe education can be cut even more.

• Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander) is convinced Wyoming needs to tax wind energy. He has lots of good reasons. Among them is that the wind energy is almost exclusively being shipped out of state, where the ultimate consumers can afford to pay for it.

• Our sales tax system is being re-visited by the legislators as they ponder putting sales taxes back on food or adding sales taxes to services. Both are controversial. 

Legislative leaders Steve Harshman (R-Casper) in the House and Drew Perkins (R-Casper) in the Senate are contending the two houses will work closer together than in recent years. New governor Gordon also is predicting harmony as the various legislative processes move along. 

Two issues that I would like to deal with include more transparency in Wyoming state government and promoting more attention to civics classes in Wyoming schools.

We can’t talk about state government with saying a fond farewell to outgoing Gov. Matt Mead and his wife Carol. What a class act!  Thanks again for what you folks have done for Wyoming over the past eight years.

And finally, on the world stage we are seeing literally unprecedented good times.

There are some small deadly wars going on but no major clashes for the first time in a thousand years.

And at last check, there are 116 countries in the world that consider themselves democracies with the citizens electing their leaders.

Now that is something to toast here in the early weeks of 2019.  Happy New Year!

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