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A sales tax on food?

The Lord upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. – Psalm 146:7

A news reporter called this week to find out the Wyoming Association of Churches’ position on a proposal to allow municipalities to impose a sales tax on food that the Joint Revenue Committee will consider this week when it meets in Douglas.  My initial reaction was, “Really?”  I told him that the Wyoming Association of Churches opposes a tax being reinstated on food.  We fought too hard for too many years until it finally got removed, including a signature drive to put the decision on the ballot.  The legislature saw the wisdom of exempting taxes on groceries.  This we consider one of our successes.

This past session, a legislator teased me that some of them stay awake at night creating ways to upset me.  He knew that I was frustrated with legislators opposing Medicaid expansion despite all the financial benefits that acceptance would bring to Wyoming.  I replied jokingly that they were guaranteeing that I have a job.  But seriously, I do wonder after the budget cuts that hurt Wyoming’s families and elderly whether there could be some who consciously do seek ways to hurt people at a time that the economy is driving more into poverty.

Cities and towns also got hit hard with budget cuts this year and had been hurt when the sales tax was removed from food.  But taxing an absolute necessity is not the way to fix the problem.  In fact, taxing food takes away expendable income for other items.  Having less to spend on other items means the local economy is hurt even more, an unending cycle.

If not on food, where should more revenue come from?  How about more taxes on tobacco and alcoholic beverages that have a double advantage by discouraging their harmful use?  What about looking at the millions in so-called “rainy day” accounts?  What about adopting Medicaid expansion?  An income tax would be a more equitable source of revenue.  But please, not food.

Call to action!

The Joint Revenue Committee meets this Thursday, May 12, 8:30 am at 400 W. Center Street in Douglas to consider the proposed sales tax on food.  Come and voice your concern or send the Committee an email.  Remember that a committee represents the interests of the whole state, not just their district, so you do not need to live in their district to contact them.

They are:

  1. Senator R. Ray Peterson, co-chair

  2. Senator Cale Case

  3. Senator Ogden Driskill

  4. Senator Dave Kinskey,

  5. Senator Bill Landen,

  6. Representative Michael Madden, co-chair

  7. Representative Jim Blackburn

  8. Representative JoAnn Dayton

  9. Representative Roy Edwards

  10. Representative Mark Jennings

  11. Representative Bunky Loucks,

  12. Representative David Northup,

  13. Representative Tom Reeder,

  14. Representative Sue Wilson,

On another topic, Embrace Cultural Diversity is a training that I am assisting with at Central Wyoming College in Riverton on June 7, 9 am – 2 pm.  To register, click here.  If you would like this training in your community, contact me and we will talk about how we might make that happen.

The Wyoming Association of Churches seeks justice for the poor and most vulnerable.  To contribute, click here.  Or mail your contribution to WAC, PO Box 1473, Laramie, WY 82073.

Fear not. Be bold. Do justice.


Chesie Lee

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