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RIVERTON — State revenue forecasters say the growth of Wyoming’s impact assistance program has been “pretty extraordinary” this year.

The program offsets the impacts of large industrial projects on local communities by sending a portion, if not all, of the sales and use taxes generated from the projects back to the affected counties – instead of to Wyoming’s general fund.

In fiscal year 2019, almost $11 million went to local governments in the form of impact assistance payments, according to a January report from Wyoming’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Group.

“(That) was more than the prior five years combined,” CREG co-chair Don Richards said during a Joint Appropriations Committee meeting last week.

The CREG report notes that impact assistance payments totaled $7.2 million in the five prior fiscal years combined.

In the first half of fiscal year 2020, impact assistance already has added up to $14 million, Richards said. If the current rate holds, he pointed out, the total for the current fiscal year could be $28 million.

“That would be roughly three times what we had last year,” he said.

Since the JAC’s October meeting, Richards said, three more impact assistance applications have been approved, including two that came in under the “new system” which allows for the distribution of all state sales and use tax generated from large projects back to the local communities. And, he continued, “there are $60 million in additional applications out there.”

“We have no chance of catching this increasing growth rate,” Richards said. “It will start to have a material impact on the collection of state sales and use taxes.”

Richards said most impact assistance applications are associated with wind development projects, though there also is some trona activity involved.

JAC co-chair and Wyoming Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, asked for a breakdown of the counties receiving impact assistance, as well as more information about the types of projects involved in the program.

“I don’t think we anticipated this type of an impact to our budget when we did this, and I think it’s something we need to re-evaluate,” he said.

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