House District 51 candidates ponder how to advocate for smaller municipalities | State
SHERIDAN — Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, faces opposition in the primary election race for House District 51 in the Wyoming Legislature — Bryan Miller.
Constituents voted Western into the position in 2019 and he currently serves on the following committees: House Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources, House Minerals, Business and Economic Development, and Select Committee on Blockchain, Financial Technology and Digital Innovation Technology.
Miller serves as Sheridan County Republican Party chair and has run for several political offices in the past, including U.S. Senate in 2014 and U.S. House before withdrawing ahead of this year’s primary election.
During the 2021 legislative session, legislators worked on Senate File 64, which would have altered direct distribution funding to municipalities. Small municipalities — Ranchester, Dayton and Clearmont in Sheridan County — have less tax income to work with for local budgets than larger cities like Sheridan. As state budgets tighten due to economic downturns, allocations continue decreasing for already-small town budgets.
A Feb. 5, 2021, article by The Sheridan Press, reported direct distribution for Sheridan County would decrease by 11.93% from what was previously budgeted while funding for the city of Sheridan would decrease by 11.24%, according to the Legislative Service Office. Ranchester would see a 7.73% decrease while Dayton would see a 7.33% decrease and Clearmont would see a 3.28% decrease. The two candidates for House District 51 addressed the continuing issues with direct distribution ahead of the primary election.
Western said even if it makes you unpopular at the Wyoming State Capitol, he believes his position as legislator requires advocating for the small towns within his district.
“I think it’s standing up for those communities,” Western said. “Saying, ‘No, this disadvantages them, they get less of a say than they should,’ and that was exactly how it happened.”
Specifically, Western reported he was not particularly happy with how decisions regarding sales tax distributions played out two years ago, and decisions made at the state level are felt countywide.
“I don’t have any hard feelings toward those folks, they’re doing the best they can and are doing the same job I do…At the end of the day, our job is to advocate,” Western said.
Miller said too much control exists at the state level with respect to direct distribution allocations.
“The best way to levelize those resources is at the county level,” Miller said. “Not the state level, the county level.”
While Sheridan certainly holds the strongest and largest tax base for Sheridan County, Miller said, that’s not where all Sheridan County residents reside. Outlying communities in the county serve as bedroom communities for Sheridan proper, and thus require stable tax bases and allocations in those areas, as well, Miller said.
“We have 19,000 supposedly in the city (of Sheridan) now, and about 12,000 spread out across the other towns here in Sheridan County,” Miller said. “It’s not 50/50, but it shouldn’t be what it is now when it comes to the county tax base where Sheridan gets this huge chunk and the smaller communities get a very little piece because they’re just a little small community.
“All of the folks that live in those smaller communities depend on the smaller communities for basic needs…cities need to be much more accommodating to those who come to town to spend money.”
The primary election for this race will likely determine the outcome of who holds the position for the next term, as no Democratic or other party affiliated candidates filed to run against Republicans Western and Miller. Only write-in candidates may be considered and must overpower votes given to either of the official candidates at the conclusion of the election.
Ashleigh Snoozy joined The Sheridan Press in October 2016 as a reporter before moving into the managing editor position in November 2018. She is a native of Colorado and graduated from Biola University in Los Angeles.