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Wyoming Political Life in the 20th Century


Wyoming landscape
Wyoming landscape

In the early 1960s, reapportionment of the state legislature became a political issue. Wyoming’s cities, which had grown significantly, were underrepresented in the legislature, which had not been reapportioned since 1933. A U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1962, which decided that people whose votes were diluted by apportionment could sue in federal court, reignited local protests, and the legislature passed a reapportionment act in 1963. However, the act was held unconstitutional. Eventually, after the legislature was unable to agree on another formula, a plan was imposed by the U.S. District Court. Wyoming has no state tax on personal or corporate income. The sales tax, first passed in 1935, produces a significant share of government tax revenue. In 1969 Wyoming passed a mineral severance tax, which collected a percentage of the industry’s profits for the state. The state also created a trust fund to help communities cope with economic dependence and environmental issues related to the mining industry. The severance taxes on coal, oil, and other minerals bring in almost one-third of the state’s budget.

In the 1990s and 2000s politicians called for diversifying Wyoming’s economy so that it would rely less on the mineral industry. Such campaigns, however, have been met with ambivalence. Many Wyoming natives appear to prefer that the state remain lightly populated and free of industry. Water rights remained an important issue throughout the 20th century and into the 21st. Wyoming’s constitution granted the state ownership over all the state’s water. The State Engineer awards water users permits for water use, and permit applicants are required to prove that they are planning to use the water for a “beneficial use.” Problems arose because the definition of “beneficial use” was unclear. Since the 1980s, the state has been engaged in lawsuits over water rights with states downstream. Nebraska and Wyoming have had litigation over control of the North Platte River. Montana and Wyoming have had litigation over control of the Yellowstone River. "Wyoming" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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