WCCA News

2020 Budget Session Legislative Recap (1 of 2)

Posted by kelli.little on April 13, 2020

By: Jerimiah Rieman, Executive Director

When life throws you lemons, make lemonade. From my perspective, that summarizes how the WCCA team and our friends and partners reacted following my accident. I am deeply indebted to everyone who stepped up, including commissioners and staff, and especially Kelli Little, who earned her stripes and deserves your praise. The lemonade made by the team was perfectly sweet and light on tart.

To highlight my point, every bill the WCCA opposed this session failed, while another 28 we supported passed. This is incredible in any scenario, but especially so when you consider the circumstances. I believe WCCA gained strength as an organization this session. Despite my absence in the Capitol (save one appearance), our staff and commissioners – the whole of the team – gained valuable experience and showed strength in numbers, a deep knowledge of the issues, and camaraderie not present in other organizations. With your support and participation, the WCCA is growing into the preeminent lobbying force in Wyoming.

For a complete list of the bills WCCA supported, opposed or monitored this session and the outcome, click here. In this report – the first of two – I have attempted to provide details or various legislation considered by the Wyoming Legislature which passed and was ultimately signed by the Governor. Before that however, I want to reflect on legislation the WCCA lobbied against and which failed, including:

  • HB0185 Lottery games – keno. – An attempt to divert lottery revenues away from local governments in favor of the General Fund and School Foundation Fund.
  • HB0237 Local impact assistance payments – 2. – An attempt to lower the eligible amount of impact assistance payments to local governments where industrial projects are permitted.
  • SF0026 State group insurance plan – participation. – An attempt to prohibit local governments from participating in the Wyoming state group insurance plan.

The failure of these bills preserved revenue and other financial tools for counties. Nevertheless, we must remain vigilant.

As you peruse this report (and the next), please provide feedback. It is our pleasure to serve and support.

Wyoming State Budget 2021-2022 Biennium
(see SF0001 General government appropriations., Enrolled Act No. 40, Senate)

 The Wyoming State Budget includes the following highlights for counties:

  •  $250,000 to improve Wyoming’s access to and export growth in international markets
  • $1 million to the Federal Natural Resource Policy Account
  • $2.55 million for contract trial attorneys, contract legal support or compensation for up to five full-time employee positions to address caseload work requirements and geographic distribution within the Office of the Public Defender
  • $2 million for the property tax refund program within the Department of Revenue
  • $3 million in the Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust to provide for wildlife crossings and game fences subject to match
  • Authorization for the Department of Transportation to replace the existing revenue information system
  • $4.66 million to fund local government on-going costs of hardware and software maintenance for the WyoLink system
  • $8 million to provide grants to counties for substance abuse and tobacco prevention of which $2 million shall be expended for activities designed to prevent suicide
  • $5 million for purposes of a statewide energy commercialization plan

Consistent with past action on the budget, Governor Gordon vetoed several sections of the budget, including the following provisions which may have benefited counties:

  • Requirement or the Department of Health to collect a surcharge of $5 for each copy of a death certificate issued for indigent burial and cremation expenses
  • $123,000 appropriation to the Department of Family Services to supplement indigent burials and cremation
  • Requirement for the Department of Transportation to collect a surcharge of $5 (for the biennium only) on vehicle registration fees to fund replacement of the existing revenue information system

Anticipate these topics to come up again, specifically as committee or individual legislation.

HB0025 County reserve accounts. (Enrolled Act No. 49, House)
WCCA Position: Support
Effective Date: Immediately

This legislation authorizes the deposit of certain specific purpose excise taxes into reserve accounts upon approval of the governing body and qualified electors of a county. Funds in the reserve account may be: 

  • Invested as provided in W.S. 9-4-831,
  • Expended for specific purposes previously authorized and for the ordinary operations of local government,
  • Designated as a maintenance and sinking fund for a specific project or projects and the earnings and principal amount in the fund may be expended for the applicable project or projects, and
  • Designated as an inviolate account to constitute a permanent or perpetual trust fund which shall be invested in a manner to obtain the highest return possible consistent with preservation of the corpus. Any earnings from investment of the corpus of a permanent or perpetual trust fund designated shall be deposited in a separate account and may be expended.

Where the qualified electors of a county previously approved a specific purpose excise tax, the governing body may submit a question of whether to allow a specified amount of revenue from the tax be deposited into a reserve account and expended as authorized by this legislation.

HB0047 Local sales and use taxes. (Enrolled Act No. 70, House)
WCCA Position: Monitor
Effective Date: January 1, 2021

This bill authorizes the implementation of an optional municipal sales and use taxes ONLY where a county has imposed at least one percent of the general purpose tax AND has voted to initially approve or continue a specific purpose tax. Where a county has not imposed a specific purpose tax, the board of county commissioners may grant authority, subject to terms, for a municipality to propose an optional municipal tax.

While this legislation primarily supports cities and towns, there are provisions that benefit counties, including the following: 

  • Lowers the threshold from two-thirds to 50 percent the number of incorporated municipalities within a county required to approve a proposition,
  • Extends the general-purpose tax term from two to four years, and
  • Allows voters to establish the term of the general purpose tax as permanent.

HB0159 Monthly payment of ad valorem tax on mineral production. (Enrolled Act No. 78, House
(WCCA Position: Strongly Support
Effective Date: Immediately

This bill transitions payment of ad valorem taxes on mineral production to monthly commencing January 1, 2020. Further, it provides a payment schedule for the transition period through 2027 and initiates a closure of the time gap between production and tax assessment. For a visual representation of the transition, click here.

A county may enter into an agreement with the taxpayer to accept payments for the ad valorem tax on mineral production under the processes and procedures in place prior to the effective date of the bill. Prior to entering into any agreement, the county shall: 

  • Establish uniform eligibility criteria and an application process,
  • Conduct at least one public meeting related to the proposed agreement,
  • Notify all taxing authorities that receive any taxes that may be impacted by the agreement of the meeting at least fourteen (14) days prior to the meeting, and
  • Notify the Department of Revenue who shall exempt the taxpayer from the provisions of the legislation.

No taxpayer is eligible for an agreement for mineral production from any property acquired on or after the effective date of the bill.

NOTE: Additional legislative action is necessary to facilitate the complete transition of mineral ad valorem taxes. The Revenue Committee and the Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee have both identified the issue for interim study.

HB0181 Attorney general authority in bankruptcy actions. (Enrolled Act No. 18, House)
WCCA Position: Strongly Support
Effective Date: Immediately

This bill authorizes the attorney general, at the request of a board of county commissioners, to act jointly with or on behalf of a county in bankruptcy proceedings.

SF0139 Tax lien enforcement – 2. (Enrolled Act No. 60, Senate)
WCCA Position: Support
Effective Date: July 1, 2020

This bill established a county lien on mineral production on or after January 1, 2021 that is superior and paramount to all other liens, claims, mortgages or any other encumbrances.

NOTE: Additional legislative action is necessary to correct issues identified with the mechanics of the statute. The Revenue Committee and the Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee have both identified the issue for interim study.

SF0040 Certification of cases to state board of equalization. (Enrolled Act No. 62, Senate)
WCCA Position: Monitor
Effective Date: July 1, 2020

This bill requires the county board of equalization to certify a case involving property that may subject the county to tax liability directly to the state board of equalization. In these cases, the board of county commissioners would have standing to appeal any decision made by the state board of equalization regarding the property.

HB0073 – Nicotine products – taxation. (Enrolled Act No. 32, House)
WCCA Position: Support
Effective Date: July 1, 2020

This bill expands Wyoming’s cigarette tax to other nicotine products, including electronic cigarettes and vapor material. The taxation rate on these products will be 15 percent of the wholesale purchase price of which counties will receive 15 percent of the amount collected. The amount distributed is based on the proportion of sales in each county, and among its cities and towns. The fiscal impact, in the form of increased revenue, is indeterminable currently.

NOTE: Effective July 1, 2020, the lawful age to purchase or possess tobacco or nicotine products, including electronic cigarettes and vapor material, raises to the age of 21 years.

SF0057 Local government distributions. (Enrolled Act No. 24, Senate)
WCCA Position: Strongly Support
Effective Date: July 1, 2020

This bill provides funding to cities, towns and counties for general government operations except for salary adjustments, additional personnel or increased personnel benefits. Of the $105 million appropriation, counties share $36,925,000 per biennium, or $18,462,000 each fiscal year (assuming no cuts occur in the interim).

SF0120 Office of guardian ad litem – 2. (Enrolled Act No. 41, Senate)
WCCA Position: Monitor
Effective Date: July 1, 2020

This bill creates an independent Office of Guardian Ad Litem without oversight from the Office of the Public Defender. There should be no material affect for counties.

HB0020 Municipal bonds – digital securities. (Enrolled Act No. 33, House)
WCCA Position: Support
Effective Date: July 1, 2020

This bill authorizes bonds issued by or on behalf of a county to be issued a digital securities.

SF0056 Absentee polling places. (Enrolled Act No. 72, House)
WCCA Position: Support
Effective Date: Immediately

This bill authorizes the county clerk to establish additional satellite absentee polling places in one or more public buildings within the county.

SF0076 Government agency parking. (Enrolled Act No. 44, Senate)
WCCA Position: Support
Effective Date: Immediately

This bill repeals the requirement for counties to provide free parking areas adequate to accommodate at least twenty percent (20%) of the number of vehicle parking spaces for which a fee is charged.

SF0089 Worker’s compensation credit. (Enrolled Act No. 49, Senate)
WCCA Position: Support
Effective Date: Immediately

This bill established a premium credit for any employer in good standing who has made all required worker’s compensation payments for the period beginning January 1, 2019 and ending December 31, 2019.

HB0031 Criminal justice – mental health – substance use programming. (Enrolled Act No. 62, House)
WCCA Position: Support
Effective Date: July 1, 2020

This bill requires the Department of Health and the Department of Corrections to collaborate to reduce criminal offender recidivism by improving mental health and substance use programming.