3 House candidates differ on many issues
From property tax relief to economic growth, candidates for HD-16 tout their views.
By Kevin Huelsmann
July 14, 2010
The race to succeed soon-to-be-retired state lawmaker Pete Jorgensen is bringing to the fore a wide array of issues.
Three candidates, all with their own distinct set of priorities, are vying for the chance to take over from Democrat Jorgensen as state representative in House District 16, an area that encompasses most of Jackson and a portion of Teton Village.
Len Carlman – an attorney with the local firm Hess, Carlman and D’Amours – is the lone Democrat in the race. Former chairman of the Teton County Republican Party Joe Schloss and local business owner Ruth Ann Petroff are running for the GOP nomination that will be decided in the Aug. 17 primary.
When asked about their top issues, the candidates supplied a disparate list of concerns that ranged from working to consolidate local governments to offering incentives to entice wind-energy companies to relocate in Wyoming.
Carlman, 48, said he wants to press the state Legislature to pursue lodging and property tax reforms as well as work on reapportioning legislative districts in 2012, which follows the 2010 Census. Carlman will face the GOP nominee in November.
Schloss and Petroff both said that they want to help bolster the state economy by trying to attract wind-energy companies to the state. Besides trying to encourage alternative energy development within the state, they each raised entirely different issues when asked about their top priorities.
Schloss, 59, said that, although there are many issues pertinent to the valley and Wyoming, he plans to focus on taxes, jobs and the economy.
Petroff, 44, said she plans to push legislative efforts that would allow the town and county to consolidate.
Schloss focuses on economy
For Schloss, the biggest issue this election season is the down economy. To help lift the local economy from its financial doldrums, Schloss said he plans to focus on keeping taxes low and trying to create jobs.
“It’s important that we don’t raise taxes at this time,” said Schloss, a retired special agent with Homeland Security and a retired sergeant major with the U.S. Army Reserve. “I’m not in favor of raising taxes at any time. Keeping taxes down gives people a little more money in their pocket, which allows them to spend more, which will help businesses and allow them to hire people. They’re all connected.”
Schloss said that the biggest challenge in trying to bolster the local economy is fostering a sense of confidence among consumers and business owners.
“If you look around Jackson Hole in general there are a lot of businesses that have closed or have downsized,” said Schloss, who unsuccessfully challenged Jorgensen in 2008. “That creates a climate of fear among residents who see that and say, ‘Oh, things must be really bad.’ In order to create jobs you have to create a level of confidence in the community to get people to start spending money again.”
One of the ways Schloss plans to boost the Wyoming and, ultimately, the local economy is by trying to encourage the development of new industries within the state.
“The biggest area right now is renewable energy, in terms of jobs and the amount of energy that we need,” he said.
Petroff seeks valley solutions
Petroff would push for legislation that would allow local voters to decide if they want to combine the town and county governments and to try to develop incentives for new companies to relocate to the state.
Petroff said that having one government in Jackson Hole would make for a much more efficient and economical arrangement.
“One government would help environmentally, economically and with the planning process for the entire valley,” she said.
In past years, Petroff said she has seen a willingness on the part of state lawmakers to consider the issue. However, there has not been a strong effort on a local level, she said.
“We haven’t had the will locally to push the issue as far as we could,” she said.
Petroff said voters should decide if consolidation is appropriate for their communities.
Carlman wants better districts
Carlman said that, if elected, he plans to push the legislature to redraw the legislative districts in and around the valley, which he said are “gerrymandered right now.”
“[State Rep. Keith Gingery] has a district that goes from Melody Ranch to Dubois to Alpine,” Carlman said. “And [State Rep. Jim Roscoe] has a district that goes from Wilson to Alpine to Pinedale. That’s just gerrymandering.”
Carlman said that in reconsidering how the districts are divided, he would strive to establish some kind of “geographic integrity and common sense.”
He pointed to the growth of Pinedale in the past decade as one obvious example of how the area would benefit from new districts. Carlman also said he would work to seat Wilson in one district and wanted to look at how district lines were drawn in the northern portion of Teton County as well as in Dubois.
Carlman also said he wants to push for state officials to study property tax reform from two vantages.
“I want the legislative and executive branches to study property tax reform along the lines of holding the annual property tax amount at the amount it was when we passed property tax reform or whenever a new property is purchased,” Carlman said. “I would also want them to look at having the accrued increase or decrease in property tax from annual valuation ... be made payable at the time of the next sale.”
As a caveat, Carlman said that in studying these ideas he would be protective of the state’s education system, which derives a majority of its funding from property taxes.
Carlman said that there is a property tax deferral program in place, but that it falls short of addressing the root problem.
In addition to those proposals, Carlman said that he wants to explore the possibility of changing the ratio of how lodging tax is divided. Currently, state law requires that revenue collected from a lodging tax be spent as such: 60 percent for promotion, 30 percent on visitor impact services, with the remaining 10 percent set aside for local government.
Carlman said he would be in favor of changing that ratio to 90:10. Under Carlman’s proposal, 90 percent of revenue collected from a lodging tax would be spent on visitor impact services, such as public transportation or infrastructure for alternative modes of transportation, and 10 percent would be put toward local government operations.