To my mind, public education is the No. 1 responsibility of state government, and I think our state constitution supports that notion. As we were reminded by the recent terrible news from Gillette, we can no longer rely on minerals as our overwhelming means to fund public education and all of state government. We need to diversify our revenue sources, and we need to do it soon.
I'm in favor of most new tax ideas from recent years – lodging, toll roads, tobacco.
My daughter is a teacher, and my granddaughter will be in school soon. You may know that children are born into poverty at a very high rate. For those underprivileged children, public education is their only means to realize the American Dream of joining the middle class. Vouchers for private schools don't work for them. For the sake of my granddaughter's future classmates, I'd even pay more for a six-pack of beer!
I know that beer taxes won't solve our funding problems. Right now, our legislature's Joint Revenue Committee is looking at the National Retail Fairness Act, also known as the big box tax. It's a form of corporate income tax that easily passed the House during the last session. I'd like to thank Rep. Jerry Obermueller, Sen. Cale Case and Cheyenne's Rep. Dan Zwonitzer for their leadership in attempting to find a sustainable way ahead for Wyoming, and especially our public education system.
There is still room for efficiency in education, but new revenue sources are the only path to maintaining a first-rate system that can provide opportunities for our children.