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More Reasons to Vote for Liz Storer

Let’s ReCAP the TAX Facts!

The Jackson Hole real estate market saw over $2.75B in sales in 2021, with a median sale price of $1.84M (over $4M for a single-family home). Prices remain high, exacerbating our ever challenging housing market into absolute crisis. 84% of our hospital workers can’t afford to live in the valley – despite a recent wage increase that puts them in the top 10% nationally.

It’s time to take action to make things better, not worse, for working people in our community.

Scrap the “Cap the Tax” Idea

As everyone knows, high housing values have also impacted our property taxes significantly; it’s the issue that comes up most often while I’m going door to door. Quite simply, we should not take action that incentivizes additional wealthy people to purchase real estate here. This is why I do not support the “cap on tax” idea that Republican candidates, including my opponent, favor. Here’s why:

1. As an assessment limit, a tax cap is the worst way to provide property tax relief, according to the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. It gives a much bigger tax break to wealthy people than middle-income people, as it correlates directly with the value of one’s home. Giving the owner of a $5M home a tax break five times that of the owner of a $1M home makes no sense.

2. It’s patently unconstitutional. The Wyoming Constitution requires that property be uniformly valued within each class of property; a tax cap would alter that uniformity and create additional unintended consequences. At best, it would take AT LEAST two years to get on the ballot, and three to implement. It is not an immediate fix, as my opponent would lead you to believe.

Practical Solutions for Property Tax Relief

My solutions provide direct tax relief to people who need it most:

1. Circuit Breakers and expanded refund programs

Circuit breakers provide tax relief to households spending the highest share of their income on property taxes, such as seniors on fixed incomes, low-income homeowners, individuals facing a sudden reduction in earnings, or others who spend a significant amount of their income (6% or more) on property tax.

Taxpayers could receive a credit or an exemption equal to the amount by which their property tax bill exceeds a designated percentage of their income. The state could also fund, update and expand current refund programs to increase who qualifies.

Circuit breakers provide the greatest relief to those most in need while also addressing the hardship for our middle-income earners faced with five-figure tax bills.

2. Expand Homestead Exemptions

Homestead exemptions can make the distribution of the property tax more progressive. These broad-based exemptions could be available for all owner­-occupied primary residences and provide either a partial exemption from the tax or a partial credit against the property tax bill.

Existing programs targeted at seniors, veterans and homeowners with disabilities could also be expanded.

3. Expand Deferrals

Deferral programs allow homeowners to delay payment of their property taxes until ownership of the home is transferred or the owner’s income status changes.

At that point, the full amount of deferred tax becomes due, with interest. Teton County has established a county program that will be implemented next year. Unlike other forms of tax relief, deferrals impose no long-term cost on other taxpayers. At the state level, we could expand who can qualify for a deferral and the amount of assistance they are eligible for — currently this is limited to one-half of one’s tax liability. With outreach and education, such programs can be more broadly accepted when other programs otherwise fall short.

4. Provide Greater Payment Flexibility

Many families are struggling to budget for the sharp year-to-year tax increases we have seen in the last two years. Phasing in unusually large assessment increases and allowing monthly property tax payments or other ways to provide greater flexibility could also help to reduce pressure on household budgets.

All of these programs are more feasible, realistic and cost-effective than the “cap the tax” idea promoted by Republicans.

Increase Funding for Affordable Housing

Nearly every county in the United States lacks enough affordable housing to meet resident needs, but Teton County is particularly challenged due to our limited developable land base and global demand.

Increased demand has heightened and expanded the long-standing housing shortage, especially for the rental market. Although local land-use regulations and zoning practices can affect the ability to build and preserve affordable housing, changes to those local regulations will not solve Teton County’s affordability crisis. Public subsidies are still necessary to meet the housing needs for many of our low and middle-income families. Meanwhile, what the market builds is $2.8M condos and even more expensive houses that are snapped up by remote workers and wealthy second-home buyers, creating more demand for workers.

The Teton Board of Realtors’ Community Housing Fund that allows realtors and sellers to contribute voluntarily is a well-intentioned and positive – but wholly inadequate – effort, as it has raised $500,000 when the need is something closer to $500M.

The $70M for housing measures on the SPET ballot for hospital, school, county, city, and community housing will help, but as a community, we need to do more or we will continue to lose our small businesses, senior citizens, and working class.

A local option real estate transfer tax (RETT) – something most states have and an idea I support – could help fill this gap without having a significant impact on our local real estate market or realtors’ bottom line.

A home in my neighborhood is a great example: bought by second homeowners in 2017 for $1.6M, they sold it late this summer for $3.9M. The difference between their asking and closing price was $200,000, while a 1% RETT with a $1M exclusion would only be $29,000, a mere drop in the bucket of their $2.3M appreciation. But with county-wide sales of $2B annually, these can add up to tens of millions of dollars per year to help support affordable housing, reduce reliance on the property tax, and address other local needs. As a local option, Teton County can decide for itself the parameters that make sense and put it to a vote.

At the state level, we still need to enact long-term tax policy reform to wean ourselves off fossil fuels as a tax base. If we start soon, we can make a gradual transition to a broad, sustainable and equitable tax policy that works for our 21st century economy. And we can do a better job of investing the state’s $28B permanent funds for greater returns, keeping taxes low for all. If elected, that’s what I will work toward.

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Updated: Oct 29, 2022

Abortion rights are front and center this election. Reproductive freedom is about women controlling their own destinies – to make decisions for themselves. As a woman – and the only woman who will be in the Teton County delegation to Cheyenne, should I be elected – I understand why this is a fundamental right, a right to privacy – and not something left for politicians to decide. Such a decision can be complex, nuanced and difficult, and is best made by a woman, her family and her doctor.

I am the only candidate for House District 23 who has stated that I will fight for women’s reproductive freedom as protected by the US Supreme Court’s Roe V. Wade decision that has been the law for fifty years. Just like the law states, Liz does not support late-term abortions.Teton County’s Republican candidates for the legislature have been all over the map: suggesting they do – and don’t – support the trigger ban, saying they are “pro-life but also pro-choice,” saying they would put reproductive freedom on the ballot or force sterilization of women or, perhaps, most honestly, admit they are “still working through the details of their stance on access to abortion.”

Earlier this year, the Wyoming legislature voted to criminalize abortion except in the instances of rape, incest or when the life of a woman is in danger. This is government infringement upon an individual’s personal rights. Such a law fails to address obvious questions such as: Will a woman’s word be enough to convince a judge she can terminate the pregnancy? How exactly does her physician determine when her life is in danger and the procedure is lawful? When does a miscarriage allow the use of abortion care drugs? And when faced with termination for medical reasons of the fetus, who should decide? While the law to criminalize abortion is being challenged by brave women from our community, such provisions make it difficult for medical professionals to practice, further threatening our access to healthcare.

We can hope that our Wyoming Supreme Court upholds Judge Owens’ finding that the state’s abortion ban is unconstitutional, but it is almost assured that legislators will attempt to outlaw abortion once again. When that happens, we’ll need strong voices in Cheyenne, not someone still working through the details. I will work hard to educate every legislator willing to listen to the reasons why such a ban goes up against women’s fundamental rights in a democracy. And that such a right should not be put up to a popular vote.

In the decades I’ve been engaged in state policy in Wyoming, I‘ve learned that when constituents sit down with their representatives and explain the real challenges they face, we can make progress. It’s why I will be an effective representative for Teton County.

Let’s not ask our young women and girls to fight this battle all over again for the next fifty years. Stand with me in our support of women’s rights and elect me to be your representative this November.

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Updated: Oct 27, 2022

To understand how a glamping operation and 800 self-storage units could possibly be in the best interests of Wyoming’s school children, it’s necessary to recall the recent history of legislative failure. With the steady decline of revenues from fossil fuel extraction, Wyoming has had shortfalls in education funding for several years, yet far-right Republicans have stymied any effort to raise revenues from other sources. This had led the Wyoming Education Association and the school district in Cheyenne to recently sue the state for failing in its constitutional duty to provide equitable and adequate public education.

Wyoming requires that all schools receive an equitable amount per pupil – this is both a noble and practical approach to funding education given the disparities in county economics. Until 2018, the state provided funds to Teton County schools, but that trend has now reversed. With Teton County’s global demand for housing driving up prices, we are now sending an astronomical amount of property tax revenue – estimated to be $54M this year – to pay for schools in other parts of the state. This represents over one-third of all property tax collected in the county. Only three other counties out of 22 contribute along with Teton County, and they are all based on mineral revenues.

In the meantime, the state faces what is estimated to be a $192.8M shortfall in education funding for the next biennium* – even with Teton County’s property tax windfall – since the Republican-led legislature has refused to find other revenues to make up for mineral revenue losses. Many legislators oppose funding public education and are happy to continue this path of destruction, hobbling the strongest pillar upon which a future diversified economy could stand.

In the face of such obstinance, other legislators want to squeeze more revenue from the state trust lands that are held in trust to generate revenue for our schools, passing a bill in 2020 that calls for maximizing income from state lands in Teton County, while all the other counties need only “optimize” revenues, meaning they can keep grazing leases below market rates, give tax breaks to oil and gas producers, and generally manage these lands without regard for maximizing revenue.

As a result, we have this Office of State Lands (OSLI) clown show here in Teton County – leasing the most valuable land in their entire portfolio without any sort of environmental review or overall plan, and as a “temporary use permit” to avoid local rules ensuring fire, safety and public health. This translates into a “glamping” operation without any plan for treating wastewater or protecting wetlands at the headwaters of Fish Creek, and 800 self-storage units at the entrance to one of the premier ski resorts in North America. All so it can generate a few hundred thousand dollars that will hardly make a dent in that $200M shortfall. Meanwhile, OSLI staff ignored an offer from Teton County and neighbors to match this revenue while keeping the land in grazing and open space.

It is a failure of government in Cheyenne that we find ourselves in such a predicament – a failure by the legislature to raise revenues for education, a failure by state bureaucrats to consider a cooperative process with our local community or consider an offer from Teton County and neighbors to match this revenue while keeping the land in grazing and open space, and a failure by state officials to direct the office to do better.

Our community has already stepped up and offered solutions – generous ones, mind you – for the protection of the Antelope Flats parcel in Grand Teton National Park, for a proposed conservation lease on Munger Mountain, and for what will likely be the need to protect the state land above Kelly Warm Springs. At the very least, the leadership of the State Board of Land Commissioners should bring the parties together to find real and lasting solutions.

Most importantly, it’s time to create a state tax policy that works for the 21st century – that is broad, sustainable, and equitable and can deliver on education for all our kids, especially those from our working families for whom our communities ask so much and who are less likely to get the education they deserve with diminished resources. We had the opportunity to do so 20 years ago and didn’t...but the next best time to do so is today.

I hope I can count on your vote November 8th.

*High oil and gas prices are now predicted to improve current revenues, but the boom and bust nature of the state’s fossil fuel revenue sources remains problematic over the long term.

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