Dockstader details end of 67th Wyoming Legislature
◆ From the Desk of Senator Dockstader — property taxes and SJ3.
When we opened the Legislative session in January I was optimistic we would find a solution to the property tax problems, not only here in the west, but for the entire state.
So much has changed in recent years as people have bought up land, especially in Lincoln and Teton counties with little regard for the price. This helped force our taxes up to unreasonable costs.
Rep. Simpson and I, along with our county commissioners made many trips across the state in the past year to work with the Department of Revenue to find a solution.
As part of the process, 17 bills or constitutional amendments (resolutions) were filed in preparation for the 2023 Legislative session.
I watched the work of a special committee assigned to the problem and felt the basic solution came with the committee’s work.
The committee bills and individual bills, some 17, all failed. Watching the process, I decided it was for a variety of reasons — efforts to protect education and local government funding and simply for political reasons.
Along the way I decided to add two resolutions to the selection for property tax relief — SJ12 A, joint resolution providing for the assessment of residential real property as a separate property class for the purpose of taxation and providing for valuation of residential real property and SJ3, a proposal to find tax relief for the elderly and the infirm.
SJ12 went down in committee, while SJ3 went through the lengthy process of passing the Senate Committee, three readings on the Senate floor and a tight committee vote in the House before it headed to the House Floor for consideration.
That’s where we were as the session was drawing to a close. Enter the proposal to rework that resolution with a new name, SJ 3 Property tax residential property class.
The core members of the team included two Representatives and a Senator from what I call the “Ground Zero” area of the prop- erty tax problems — Lincoln and Teton counties.
Teton County experienced a 28.4 percent raise from 2021 to 2022 and an estimated 15 to 20 percent raise in 2022.
In Lincoln County some areas went up 20 percent on averagle and there was a high point of 60 percent in one instance.
Back to SJ3. First, I agreed to have SJ completely re-worked. Rep. Storer tapped into some help and that task was accomplished. Next we had to find a two-thirds majority vote on the House Floor for this action.
It was a Tuesday night and I was scheduled to have dinner with my visiting students from Star Valley.
I texted a message I would be late and stayed for the debate of SJ3 on the House Floor. After a long discussion, maybe an hour or more, the changes were approved in a 53-9 vote. I was stunned, but pleased. That meant a sleepless night as the resolution was headed to the Senate the next day. We started to work the floor explaining a very complicated change to the resolution. I could see we didn’t have the support so I laid it back a day and we continued explaining the changes.
On Thursday morning, I was asked to present SJ3 in the morning. It was a battle with two seasoned Senators vehemently opposed. After a difficult and intense debate, the vote was called. The new, and improved SJ3, passed 22-8 in the Senate, gaining the necessary two-thirds to put the measure on the ballot — a solid win in our property tax battles.
My heart was racing at that point because I could see we may have just pulled off the impossible in the final moments of the Legislature.
Gov. Gordon signed SJ3 into law the next day.
The session closed. I loaded up my vehicle and negotiated the closed winter roads and came home to my beloved Star Valley.