House District 23 Representative Andy Schwartz. Photo: Wyoming Legislature

WYOMING — During the House Revenue Committee meeting on Thursday morning March 11, HB128 came before the committee for a vote. The bill titled, county option real estate transfer tax, would provide Wyoming counties the opportunity to implement a real estate transfer tax. Voters would have to approve the tax.

The bill failed passage by the Revenue Committee in a 5-4 vote.

Teton County, district 23, Rep. Andy Schwartz sponsored the bill and spoke in front of the committee ahead of their vote. He said, “I’m aware that there is opposition from realtors statewide, some of the realtors in my community have opposition to this but I know for a fact my board of county commissioners strongly supports this bill, the town council strongly supports this bill and most of my constituents support this bill because they see this as an opportunity to address pressing needs we have in our community that we currently don’t have the funding to address.”

“Data from 2020 indicates that the market is getting stronger as prices go up, we saw roughly a 40% increase in the median value of a home in one year. There are just pressures on the market that are beyond Teton County, beyond Wyoming, that are just adding this impact,” said Rep. Schwartz during his opening remarks.

The tax would only affect real estate sales above one million dollars. The bill would charge a 1% tax for a real property sale in excess of one million dollars. The revenue would be used by the county, “in specific percentages for specific purposes.” The bill includes a long list of exemptions including, transfers to spouses, children, nonprofits, property within the Wind River Reservation, mineral estates, and agricultural land.

During the discussion, Teton County, district 16, Rep. Mike Yin commented on the bill he co-sponsored. “This [bill] puts it in a way where we can use some of those multimillion-dollar homes and have some of that resource go back to the community to help mitigate the effects on our communities when prices become so high,” he said.

House Revenue Chairman Rep. Steve Harshman removed the protective plexiglass from in front of his desk at the beginning of the meeting. During the short discussion, he said, “the last study I looked at, it seemed like there were eight counties in Wyoming that don’t even have a million-dollar home and it seemed like 90% of them were in Teton county.” Chairman Harshman voted in favor of the bill.

Natrona County, district 27, Rep. Chuck Gray commented during the meeting as well, he said, “this is going to damage real estate values, and it’s not conducive to reaching our full potential of a vibrant real estate market, and thats just the reality.”

Without providing substantial evidence Gray claimed the tax would hurt the real estate market. He said, “They’ve done studies on these bills, and I think about some of the classes I took, there were graphs about the economic effects of taxes, and this is one of the worst ones, these real estate transfer taxes because what you’re totally disincentivizing having a vibrant real estate market.”

Rep. Gray also claimed that the tax would affect the entire state. “Some might say it’s only going to be the counties that opt into this but I reject that. I think that the potential for it is going to be priced in. I think it’s also going to be considered in terms of the vibrancy of that market when sales are made the potential for this is going to affect people in other counties that may not opt into this. I think it affects our whole state even if a county does not opt in to this.” Gray voted against the bill.

Rep. Yin citing recent legislation responded to the claims, he said, “I would say this is a sales tax, its a sales tax on real estate sales. We have a sales tax on many things, I don’t think it keeps people from buying digital streaming services for example, that we passed just a little while ago.”

District 22, Rep. Jim Roscoe also weighed in, “It’s just a booming economy up there and I guess I would like to see it be a local control issue really nothings going to happen unless the people vote on it so I would like to see us broaden our view a bit and allow counties to adjust for themselves a little bit.”Rep. Roscoe co-sponsored the bill.

Schwartz sponsored a similar bill in the 2020 legislative session. Following the vote, Rep. Schwartz said, “I’ll be back.”

Buckrail @ Lindsay

Lindsay Vallen is a Community News Reporter covering a little bit of everything; with an interest in politics, wildlife, and amplifying community voices. Originally from the east coast, Lindsay has called Wilson, Wyoming home since 2017. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, cooking, and completing the Jackson Hole Daily crosswords.