The Grouse Meets Pollyanna
Readers have recently provided online and offline suggestions that The Sage Grouse is just too negative.
I hear the refrain: Can’t we all play nice? Let’s Be Positive.
That is not the general role of The Sage Grouse. I might write some nice pieces about dogs, dragonflies, birds and Mother Nature, but most of the time I need to throw rocks at glass houses.
I’m all for peace, love and happiness; the problem is that everyone defines these goals in different ways. I was pretty sure I had the answers on fall afternoons in parks in St. Paul, Minnesota, hanging out with hippie girls and rock music; it all seemed so profoundly CERTAIN: Stop war, love everybody. What I would give for that level of total confidence today. (And no, I don’t want any drugs, thank you; I have my high blood pressure and pain meds, which are enough.)
I have thrown rocks at candidates for Governor. Could I generate a positive agenda for a new Governor? I suppose I could. But that would be boring, says the devil on my left shoulder. But can’t you try, says the angel on my right shoulder. So, here we go:
Devil: I would like to repeal speed limits. [Angel: Huh?] Devil: Have you been watching the news? Gun nuts claim a Second Amendment exemption from sales tax. Let’s say hypothetically that I have a license to carry a gun, or I am planning to hunt ducks and I have a shotgun in my car. Isn’t there a Second Amendment right to go really fast while packing that heater? If I am exempt from sales tax or other government regulation while packing, can’t I tell that WHP Trooper to eat my dust?
[Angel: Oh dear, this isn’t positive at all.]
Devil: Let’s raise property taxes for ranchers and homeowners. Owners of 20,000 acre Wyoming ranches which generate $100 to $200 thousand per year on livestock, almost that much from hunting, and several times that from coal bed and oil operators, pay less taxes than I paid for a 1,500 acre money-losing ranch in Winnett, Montana.
My house in Missoula is assessed at close to the value of my house in Gillette; the property taxes in Missoula are four times the taxes here.
Of course, the reason for the difference is that Wyoming mineral operators are assessed at 100 percent of the sale price of oil, gas and coal, while ranchers are assessed almost nothing and homeowners are given a huge discount in Wyoming. Ranchers and homeowners want to have a say in government spending decisions; maybe they should pay their share of those revenues.
[Angel: Dang, this really isn’t sounding much more positive. Good thing The SG is not running for election.]
Devil: Let’s rearrange state budgets. Whack the daylights out of the Departments of Education, Health and Family Services, cut the Cheyenne staffs by 50 percent. I can’t tell that they do much which is helpful to anyone. However, take the cost savings and add at least 30 percent to the local DFS offices and hire guardians ad litem to deal with crushing juvenile case loads.
Fortunately, the laid-off state workers will be able to get jobs as roustabouts in the developing oil boom about to blow Cheyenne, Chugwater, Hawk Springs, Slater (wait a minute, Slater isn’t an actual place), Lusk and LaGrange wide open. Lusk used to be famous for its whorehouse, maybe history will repeat itself. Economic opportunity springs eternal.
[Angel: That’s a lot more interesting to people who do not work for state government in Cheyenne.]
Angel, changing roles: Double the fuel tax. We have a ridiculously low fuel tax. And we exempt farmers and ranchers, on the theory that they don’t use the roads. Excuse me, aren’t all of those rural roads built and maintained for ranchers so they can come to town to bitch about taxes, and their kids can ride the taxpayer supported school buses? But, say the ranchers, using fuel to harvest hay does not involve public roads, so please continue to exempt us.
[Angel and Devil agree: Doubling fuel taxes is Campaign Suicide. But do it anyway]
Devil, playing an imp: Can we outlaw Grizzly Bears? Someone told me that Fremont County did just that. Okay, and since floods are so inconvenient, let’s outlaw them too. Why stop there: In an abundance of caution, let’s pre-emptively outlaw Martian invaders, dog poop, asteroids, stock market crashes, politicians with big hair and global warming.
[Angel: Getting some traction now? NOT.]
Angel: After raising residential and ranch property taxes, grant a tax credit for installation of consumer-owned, home-sited wind-electric and solar-electric and solar-water heating technology.
[Everyone: Best idea so far.]
And, to ranchers who lease state lands and refuse access to said lands: grant a public easement to the state land or lose the lease.
[The SG might lose friends and clients on these items, but this is a righteous idea. Ed Grant, are you listening? (Ed Grant was a district judge who answered The Call to Public Service to head up the Office of State Lands. When he was a District Judge I had to be a little careful about criticizing or challenging his judgment; oh boy, no more.)]
I am trying hard to be constructive, offering useful ideas. Shouldn’t a real candidate for governor be talking about these issues? First question:
___ The Sage Grouse is the most brilliant practical problem solver since Copernicus.
___ Ha Ha, in your dreams.
More constructive poll:
Should Wyoming double its ridiculously low fuel taxes?
___Just don’t raise beer taxes
Should Wyoming grant tax credits or refunds for people who install residential solar or wind technology?
___Can I get a tax credit for consuming petroleum-saving ethanol in the privacy of my home?
Hunters: Should ranchers who lease state lands be required to provide a public easement to reach those state lands?
____ Hunters vote 100% yes
____ Who would vote NO?
____But then charge hunters a fee to use state lands, like Montana does?