John Turner speaks out

Here’s an oldie but a goody from former state senator John Turner. He wrote this letter to the editor back in February 2016.

A fiscal ambush

A sneak attack on the voters of Teton County. I feel that is what the recent proposal to increase the general sales tax to fund housing, transportation, and the slide represents. Once enacted, the additional funds would be unrestricted, could continue for years and would likely have no direct accountability to the citizens of the county.

When the optional sales taxes provisions were passed by the Legislature to meet the growing needs of local communities, we carefully tailored the SPET to be used for specific projects, with defined costs and with a limited time span to be applied. Appropriately, local officials have to periodically go before the voters and carefully justify their case for transparent and limited expenditures. This is the appropriate vehicle to consider for launching significant requests for what promises to be mountains of new spending.

When I was first elected to the Wyoming Legislature, Teton County was the poorest in Wyoming. It was a time when local officials had to be extremely cautious in selecting priorities and spending limited funds. Today we are fortunate to have substantial revenues flowing into local coffers. So much that one sometimes gets the impression that there is a lack of adequate planning, prioritization and accountability.

Example: The final reported building cost of the Grove Phase II was $9.9 million, $4.6 million or 88 percent above the estimates initially approved at $5.3 million. Before enacting significant funds for the legitimate need of housmg, I believe the voters need assurance that we can design and build projects efficiently and responsibly. SPET provides that accountability.

I hope local officials will rethink the funding pathway they wish to present the community.

John F. Turner
John F. Turner

John F. Turner

Former State Senator

(Teton, Sublette and north Lincoln counties)


A New Housing Authority

Save Historic Jackson Hole is very skeptical of the latest plan from the commissioners and councilors. Electeds have acknowledged that the current Housing Authority has sometimes ran roughshod in their pursuit of questionable projects that don’t seem to put enough low-income housing on the ground and, in the case of The Grove, have run into cost overruns. Their solution is leaning toward doubling the size of the Housing Authority by creating a new government department under the leadership of a new hire (Housing Director) who is expected to earn up to $161k a year.
The existing Housing Authority will be responsible for simply managing what affordable housing units are already on the ground. This is worrisome. The two organizations will undoubtedly butt heads. Adding to the annual $810k housing authority budget doesn’t seem to be a solution either.
Their isn’t even dedicated and sustainable funding in place yet for housing. And that’s another issue. Are we prepared to tax ourselves to fill a few more government cubicles?