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Petitions sent out for Wyoming property tax initiative

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Chris Woodward

(The Center Square) – Petitions for an initiative to lower property taxes in Wyoming are on their way to supporters, the Wyoming secretary of state's office said this week.

Once supporters receive the petitions for the measure, which was certified last month, they can start collecting signatures from registered voters across the state.

The “People’s Initiative to Limit Property Tax in Wyoming through a Homeowner’s Exemption” proposes cutting the state's property taxes in half.

“The people’s right to propose and enact laws by initiative to address fundamental issues, such as property tax limits, is pivotal to our state,” Secretary of State Chuck Gray said in a press release. “At the Secretary of State’s Office, we take our role in the initiative process very seriously, and will work diligently to ensure the ‘People’s Initiative to Limit Property Tax in Wyoming through a Homeowner’s Exemption’ is processed efficiently and in accordance with Wyoming law.”

Jared Walczak, vice president of state projects for the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation, warned that “slashing local property taxes by 50 percent with no revenue alternatives and no plan for offsetting spending cuts is reckless and unrealistic,” particularly in a state such as Wyoming, which Walczak says has some of the lowest property tax burdens in the country. 

Wyoming's "property taxes paid as a percentage of owner-occupied housing value" is 0.56 percent, according to the Tax Foundation, which ranks No. 47 in the country.

“Homeowners are understandably upset that soaring property values have led to spikes in property tax liability, and there may be room for some jurisdictions to reduce rates in response, but exempting half of the home value from the property tax is not the way to do it,” Walczak said. “The adoption of such a policy could imperil Wyoming's status as a no-income-tax state because it would create a local revenue crunch that state policymakers may eventually feel pressure to backfill, even as the state projects a long-run decline in tax revenue from oil, gas, and mining.” 

While Wyoming's overall tax burden is light, Walczak said taxes are heavily concentrated on businesses, and a 50 percent exemption for homesteads would shift even more taxes to commercial entities, even absent the creation of any new taxes to offset the revenue losses.

“Property taxes on land and structures create fewer economic distortions than almost any other tax, so carving up the property tax base puts pressure on more economically harmful sources of revenue,” Walczak said.