Props & Disses: 2.18.14
JACKSON, WYO – Bill me later PROP
Once again, some Wyoming lawmakers have succumbed to the overwhelming urge to introduce bills in order to make themselves feel significant enough to justify their $150 per diem. This entry is a “Prop” only for the fact that a slew of these needless and vainglorious proposed laws have already been shot down.
First, there are the intuitively unpopular bills that were swimming upstream from their inception. Raising the beer tax, Rep. Goggles? Surrender your “Man Card” immediately. The bill to legalize pot for recreational use is copycat legislation far beneath the dignity of a hardworking and proud state citizenry.
The Esquibel brothers are notorious time-wasters, often bringing wheelbarrow loads of bills to sessions already groaning under the weight of hopeful statutes. It’s Rep. Ken Esquibel that brings this session’s most pressing matter: shopping cart door dings (HB 144, Shopping cart stowage obligations). No one is denying rogue shopping carts rolling aimlessly in Smith’s parking lot aren’t one of the biggest First World menaces facing Wyomingites in this modern age, but a law requiring shoppers push their buggies back to the retrieval area for fear of a fine is a bit much.
Craving the Cowboy State PROP
Wyoming’s commitment to tourism as an economic driver is smart, sustainable and packs a really encouraging return on investment. Fresh numbers in from the Wyoming Office of Tourism show $3.2 billion was spent in state by travelers in 2013. That’s up $100 million from the previous year.
According to tourism office executive director Diane Shober, all data from last year is of the record-breaking variety and suggests the state’s tourism industry is alive and well and gobbling up its share of increased consumer confidence across the nation.
“People are starting to travel again,” Shober told the Star Tribune. “And our research is showing that more people are making Wyoming their destination of choice.”
To be sure, the Equality State still runs on oil, gas and coal extraction but revenues generated by the tourism industry is a not-so-distant second. Though tourism is highly affected by the economic climate, and to a lesser degree weather-related factors like snow totals and wildfire threat, the rebound of the family vacation could not have come at a better time. Natural gas prices are so discouragingly low that state producers are capping wells till the outlook is rosier. Heavy-handed regulation of the coal industry by the Obama administration evaporated that market with the exception of export to China, and the only oil Wyoming sees anymore is what crude is transported by rail from the Bakken oil field and Canadian oil sands.
Tourism is simply less volatile than the commodities market. And it’s also a job creator. Tourism accounts for an estimated 31,000 full- and part-time jobs in Wyoming. Some 240 new jobs were added in 2013, bringing total employment in the sector back up to pre-recession levels.
In competing fiercely with neighboring states like Colorado, the Cowboy State is holding its own. More than nine million people visited Wyoming last year – a far cry from Colorado’s record 60 million and $17 billion in 2012 – but still not too shabby considering the kickass ROI.
The state spends $12.5 million annually in advertising. Local lodging groups spend an additional $14.2 million, and the private sector kicks in $10 million more.