During the Joint Revenue Committee during the Interim last Fall, we saw gross receipts tax proposals, property tax increases, sales tax, a leisure and hospitality tax, and taxes on different services (all of which failed), there were three alcohol tax increases.
One bill draft would have increased the malt beverage excise tax in Wyoming from two to 18 cents a gallon, a 900% increase. Another would have imposed a penny a bottle tax on all types of alcohol, whether a 12 ounce beer or a 1.75 milliliter bottle of spirits. The last would have increased the markup on wholesale wine and spirits sold by the Wyoming Liquor Division (WLD) from 17.6% to 20.6%.
The WSLA opposed all three. The first two died, but the third, increasing the markup on wholesale wine and spirits from 17.6% to 20.6%, made it through the Joint Revenue Committee to become House Bill 44 (Alcoholic liquors markup amount). That worked out to be a 3% increase on the wholesale price, negatively impacting Wyoming retailers ability to compete with surrounding states and (for wine) on-line sales. It would also hurt the bottom line for those that sell on-premise.
Once the 2018 Legislative Budget Session began, House Bill 44 was killed on Introduction by a vote of 22 – 38. But we weren’t done yet. The same concept was repeated as a Budget Amendment, although the monies raised would have been diverted to funding education, which it wouldn’t have done much to help, since it only raised $3 million a year. That Budget Amendment failed as well.
Next, House Bill 177 (Comprehensive tax reform) would still have raised the wholesale markup on wine and spirits from 17.6% to 20.6%. But interestingly, it would have eliminated the state excise tax on malt beverages, to be replaced by a local option to allow cities, towns, and counties to impose their own tax on malt beverages. HB 177 died without passing House Introduction.
On tobacco products, a bill draft was originally killed by the Joint Revenue Committee to raise the cigarette excise tax by $1/pack as well as increasing the rate for other tobacco products. However, the bill draft was resurrected by the Committee to become House Bill 43 (Tobacco tax). In addition, HB 177 would have raised tobacco taxes by a similar amount. Both bills died without passing House Introduction.
Of interest to many in the hospitality business was the “Leisure and Hospitality Tax,” which would have instituted a 1% tax increase on all sales within the 7000 NAICS codes, which includes on-premise food and beverages, to fund the Department of Tourism.
Although the WSLA supports funding the Department of Tourism, there were concerns that this tax would have targeted Wyoming residents for those purchases for tourism funding. This tax failed in the Interim Joint Revenue Committee, to be followed by a lodging tax increase proposal to fund tourism (House Bill 174) which died without passing House Introduction.
Other 2018 Legislation of Interest
Senate File 104 (Resort liquor licenses for nonprofit organizations) would have allowed nonprofit organizations who hold a 501(c) to have a full resort liquor license. To qualify for a full resort liquor license currently, a business must have 1) A valuation of $1 million, unless a ski resort facility, which has a required valuation of $10 million; 2) A restaurant and convention facility seating at least 100 persons; and 3) Motel, hotel or other short term occupancy facilities of at least 100 sleeping rooms.
There were essentially no other major qualifications to obtain the license except the 501(c) nonprofit status, which essentially would allow hundreds of new Resort liquor licenses. In addition, the annual renewal fee for these licenses would have lowered from a cap of $3,000 to only $500, and these licensees would have been able to package liquor (which regular Resort licensees can’t) through “auctions” of alcohol. In short, a very bad bill for existing liquor retailers and for Wyoming. WSLA opposed this bill. Killed on Senate Introduction.
House Bill 171 (Minimum wage) would have raised Wyoming’s minimum wage to $9.50/hour, with the exception of those employed under six months at $7.50/hour. In addition, HB 171 would have over doubled the “tip credit” minimum wage to $5.50/hour. WSLA opposed this bill. Killed without House Introduction.
Senate File 4 (Regulation of bingo and pull tab games) provided for local control over bingo and pull tab game events and allowed local governments to create institute fees not to exceed 1% of gross sales for a permit. Although the WSLA was asked to testify on several occasions on this legislation, we didn’t support it. WSLA monitored this bill. Passed the Senate, died on House General File without a vote.
House Bill 52 (Lottery tickets – cash only) would have required all lottery ticket sales to be cash only, and specifically prohibited the use of debit cards. WSLA monitored this bill. Killed on House Introduction.
House Bill 75 (Pari-mutuel events – distribution of fees) would have earmarked .5% of the revenue from these activities to the state general fund. WSLA monitored this bill. Killed on House Introduction.
House Bill 125 (Wyoming lottery revenues) clarified that lottery games shall be operated and managed in a manner that maximizes revenues to the state and clarified the form of payment for these games to cash only and specifically prohibits payment by debit card. WSLA monitored this bill. Signed by the Governor into law.
House Bill 138 (Wyoming lottery – general fund deposit) was an attempt to move lottery gross proceeds into the state general fund. WSLA monitored this bill. Killed without House Introduction.
Senate File 94 (Tobacco use nondiscrimination – repeal) would have repealed a provision that prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of a person’s use or nonuse of tobacco products. WSLA opposed this bill. Killed in the House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee.