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Vote Nay on Amendment A 10/26

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Good morning my friends and welcome to yet another scintillating installment. From high above all other puerile and insipid forms of Wyoming mainstream media, This is Cowboy state politics. I of course, am your illustrious host, David Iverson broadcasting to you from the base of the Bighorns in beautiful Buffalo Wyoming.

Well, good morning my friends. I'm back behind the silver Cowboy State Politics microphone. I was down in Cheyenne yesterday for superintendent of public instruction, brian Schrader's press conference about the sexualization of Children in public schools.

It was a well attended event and I'll bring you the full and complete audio of the press conference once I get the audio processed. In the meantime, there's a pretty good article on the cow pie about the event. Surprisingly, it's pretty fair. I've posted a link to it at the website Cowboystatepolitics.com

Along with all of the city, county and state offices that are up for election this year, there are also a couple of constitutional amendments on the ballot. The first one, Constitutional Amendment A reads as follows quote,

"The Wyoming constitution allows the state to invest state funds in equities such as the stock of corporation but does not allow the funds of counties, cities and other political subdivisions to be invested in equities. The adoption of this amendment would allow the funds of county, cities and other political subdivisions to be invested in equities to the extent and in the manner the legislature may allow by law any law authorizing the investment of specified political subdivision funds in equities would require a two thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature." End quote.

Did you notice anything about that?
Well, it doesn't tell you which part of the Wyoming constitution they're attempting to amend. Its the very important Article 16,
section six. And I'm going to tell you all about it here in just a second.

But first some completely egregious self aggrandizement. You can listen to the podcast on any of your favorite podcasting apps.
I-heart Radio, Itunes, Tune-in, really any of them will work.

But the easiest way is just to go to the website Cowboystatepolitics.com. There, yYou can find all of the shows as well as any of the articles that I might bring up during the course of a program. If your name is Sleepy Joe Biden and you have no idea on which day you get pudding, Well, I can't really help you out with that. But you can go to the website cowboystatepolitics.com and find out why you shouldn't have been elected president.

This segment of the program is brought to you by New Trend Hats.
They have a wide assortment of hats for both men and women. And right now is a perfect time to check out their website because you know that white stuff is about to be flying around and you don't want your ears to get cold. So go to NewTrendHats.com and find the exact hat you've been wanting to keep your ears all nice and toasty warm.
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Why do you suppose that constitutional amendment a doesn't have the exact language that's to be inserted into our constitution? One possible answer, and I'm sure this is entirely off target, but perhaps it's so we pleabs don't get confused when we're filling out our ballot. Well now Mr Iverson, I do say you raise a valid point of inquiry.

The first problem with constitutional amendment A is they don't tell you which part of the constitution they're amending and that is the all important Article 16 Section six. Let me just read that little gem to you,

quote "Neither the state nor any county, city, township, town, school district or any other political subdivision shall loan or give its credit or make donations to or in aid of any individual association or corporation, except for necessary support of the poor. Nor subscribe to or become the owner of the capital stock of any association or corporation, except that funds of public employee retirement systems and the permanent funds of the state of Wyoming may be invested in such stock under conditions the legislature prescribes. The state shall not engage in any work of internal improvement unless authorized by a two thirds vote of the people."
End quote,

Allow me to just sum this one up for you: this is the part of our constitution that prevents graft. No political subdivision, that is school district, special district, city council, county commissioners any sort of those things. They can't give your money to private entities.

Counties, cities and towns have been trying to get around Article 16,
Section six for a long time. And that's probably the main reason why the guys that wrote our constitution put it in there because it prevents political subdivisions from engaging in unethical behavior.
You know, that is dolling out public funds to private entities that might be run or be owned by, you know, maybe one of their buddies.

Secondly, this part of our constitution is a constraint on the powers of your local municipality. If left to their own devices, cities and towns would tax the bejesus out of you. They'd raise taxes for all sorts of things that they wanted to build in their own name.

You know, maybe build a giant public bathroom and put their name on it. No, then that would be too obvious. And there's yet a third reason why this is in the constitution:

It prevents local municipalities from picking winners and losers.
You see this all across across the country, You know, a certain town wants an industry to move in maybe like amazon, so they give them all of these giant tax breaks.

In Wyoming, it's pretty difficult for a local municipality to raise taxes on their own. So the only other way that a town could entice a company to move to town would be if they were to invest in said company. Well, this part of the constitution prevents them from doing that. More broadly speaking though, The government shouldn't be picking winners and losers. We should allow the free market to operate, allow businesses to fail or prosper as they will.

But again, this is something the state of Wyoming does all of the time. Perhaps you've heard of the Wyoming Business council that doles out money all over the state. A more specific and local example is what happened in Buffalo Wyoming last summer.

A bunch of people in town got together and they decided they wanted the voters to approve an increase in sales tax. $20 million of the proceeds were to be given to the Y.M.C.A. But they didn't pay any attention to the privately owned gym That is not three blocks from the Y.M.C.A. So they'd give the the Y.M.C.A. $20 million and they wouldn't give the private guy down the road anything at all. So he would be left to compete with a publicly subsidized recreational institution. More likely than not, it would have driven his business into the ground. And that is yet another thing that article 16 section six prevents.

In other words, that's the reason why an increase in sales tax in your local city has to be approved by the voters and can't be done by the city council all on their own because if they were left to their own devices would be paying taxes for all sorts of things to million dollar bathrooms included.

So what exactly does the text of this constitutional amendment say?
You know the part that they didn't put on the ballot so that you could read it. I mean that's a tragedy all on its own. But in any case here is what the Constitutional amendment is going to say.
If approved by voters on november the eighth, quote

"The legislature may provide by law for the investment of county city township, town school district or any other political subdivisions funds in the capital stock of any association or corporation and may designate which of these funds may be invested. The legislature may prescribe different investment conditions for each type and class of political subdivision and for each type of fund any legislation,
establishing or increasing the percentage of any fund that may be invested under this paragraph shall be passed only by a two thirds vote of all of the members of each of the two houses voting separately."
End, quote.

Couple of definitions might be useful at this point. So what is a political subdivision? A quick google search tells us that a political subdivision is a unit of government created by and under the authority of a higher level of government. If a state divides itself up into counties, the counties are political subdivisions of the state and in many Wyoming counties, there's a litany of different political subdivisions that take the form of special districts.

For example, I'm on the board of the solid waste district in johnson County. A political subdivision that everyone is aware of is your local school district and equity is stock in a company or a fund or an association or something of that form.

So essentially this constitutional amendment is going to give political subdivisions the authority to invest their funds in any of these equities that the legislature prescribes. But that kind of brings up another question of where do the funds of political subdivisions come from. Tax dollars of course.

Most of them are funded by mill levies from your property taxes and those mill levies are approved by voters. So for example, in Johnson County, we established a special district for the senior center here in town. If memory serves, I think we approved half a mill levy for them. Under Wyoming law that newly created mill levy has to be approved by voters once again at the next election. So it's on the ballot again this year.

Presumably all of these mill levies and taxes Dollars are to go to the operation of those special districts. But that doesn't really happen all of the time. In Johnson County alone, there's over $75 million dollars that's sitting in bank accounts of all of these special districts, most of which is not invested in any meaningful fashion.

Instead, that money is just stashed away in what is called reserves.
It's more important for some political subdivisions to have reserves than it is for others. For example, for a city or town, it's pretty important to have some rainy day money stashed away. So for if a sinkhole appears on main street, you can get that repaired pretty quickly.

Other political subdivisions, however, really don't have any need for any reserve account at all. For example, in Johnson County, the cemetery district has about a million dollars stashed away.

Why does a cemetery need a million bucks in the bank? In that example,
I can't think of a single reason why they would have that much money stashed away. I mean, the cemetery already has enough property to bury the entire town three times over.

As a general rule, if you're bringing in more money than you need to operate, you are taxing people too much. And in the case of Johnson County, we've taxed our citizens $75 million dollars too much or thereabouts. You see all of that cash that they've got stashed underneath their bed, isn't their money. It's your money. And what do politicians do when they see a large chunk of cash laying around?
Well, they spend it. They always do. Herein lies the problem.

While I agree that we shouldn't have tax money sitting in an account that's not doing anything, at the very least, political subdivisions should put that money into C.D'S Or something. That's what we do at the solid waste district.

We can't allow them the latitude to monkey around with those funds as they see fit. Hypothetically speaking, if a city council makes a huge pile of cash off of an investment that they made and then there's a project that they want to build or a particular politician wants to build, then that cash is available for them to do so.

And in the next election they can say, hey guys, look what I built for you. And so we are opening the door for our tax dollars to be used for political purposes. Secondly, we're opening the door for graft,
which is exactly what Article six, Section six is meant to prevent.

The other big problem with this whole thing is that it increases the size of government. We already have cities and towns in Wyoming that have decided that their elected mayor is not qualified enough to run the city or town. So they have to hire what is called a city manager.

This is problematic because of a whole bunch of reasons, the biggest of which happens to be that a city manager is not accountable to the people. So what will happen here is these political subdivisions are going to have to hire an investment manager, you know, to manage all the finances of their political subdivision. The problem being, is not that that person is not going to be qualified though, it probably will end up being a buddy of one of the board members that gets hired,
but they're not accountable to the people.

And there in lies the biggest problem with this whole thing. If Wyoming citizens don't think that State Treasurer Curt Meier is doing a good job. Well, we just vote somebody else in. But that won't be the case here. Rather, each little town in the state of Wyoming will have somebody hired that will manage all of their finances for them and in larger communities that one person, well, they're just not going to be able to handle all of the workload that's going to be created by investing all of the political subdivisions money. So they're going to have to hire a team to help him manage all of those things.

So you see what we've done is created a department of finance for each city town, County and political subdivision in the state of Wyoming and we all know that the person that controls the purse strings controls the entire pocketbook, none of them being accountable to the people.

And so the ultimate problem, an unforeseen consequence of Constitutional Amendment A is you're taking power away from your local elected officials and giving it to an unelected bureaucrat, all of which is being done by an innocuous little amendment a to a little known and definitely little red section of the Wyoming constitution,
Article 16, Section six.

And the hilarious part of all of this is that funds that are already held by special districts, political subdivisions and all of those things can already be invested to a point.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the episode, those funds, some of which can be invested in certificates of deposit through banks.

Now I mentioned that I'm on the board of the solid waste district here in Johnson County. We've done great with our investments of money that we've got from our mill levy. Now it's true there are some things that we can't do with that money, but that was done for a point that is to put reigns on the use of your tax dollars to make sure that your tax dollars are being used for the specified purpose. You know, the one that you approved when you went to the ballot box and chose to approve a mill levy for your county.

Constitutional Amendment A is a bad idea. It opens up the door to expanding government and giving power to unelected bureaucrats.

There's one other little item concerning Constitutional amendment,
a. It's being pushed by the Wyoming Association of Municipalities,
just about every county city town is a member of the Wyoming Association of Municipalities. Yeah, your tax dollars pay for their membership in it. Really, it's just another lobbying group.

If you look at their website, you won't find that much information about constitutional amendment A but you will if you look at their facebook page and there's one ad they put up that might be of particular interest to you. It says, and I quote, "Support our local governments and keep our taxes low." "Don't skip it. Vote Yea, for amendment a."

Constitutional Amendment A doesn't do anything to lower your taxes.
Nor does it have any language in it that says that municipalities and political subdivisions have to keep your taxes low. In fact, it doesn't say anything about taxes. That word does not appear in that amendment.

What the Wyoming Association of municipalities is trying to do is mislead you into believing that Constitutional Amendment A will keep your taxes low. There's nothing in it that says they will do that.

In fact, it will probably have the reverse effect. What happens when politicians realize they can increase the size of their coffers?
Well, they continue putting money into their coffers for which they can use it for their own political purposes because that's what politicians do and when that happens the purpose of a political subdivision changes, it then becomes a tool to further political interests, even more so than it already is.

So, in response to the Wyoming Association of Municipalities vote nay on Constitutional Amendment A.

That'll do it for today's episode. Have a good rest of your week and we'll talk again tomorrow morning for the live broadcast that begins at 10 a.m.

From the base of the Bighorns in beautiful Buffalo, Wyoming. I'm David Iverson. And this is cowboy state politics.