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Murray: Raising biz fees would hurt state's revenue problem

Sep 20, 2017 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

As the 2018 legislative session approaches, legislators are considering whether to raise the price of a number of state fees that businesses are charged.

The proposal is one of many new revenue steps being weighed as a way to reduce the state's financial crisis.

Secretary of State Ed Murray doesn't like the idea. He argued against it at the Monday meeting of the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee in Lander.

Murray said an increase of fees would actually result in a reduction to the state's net revenue "because the additional cost of doing businesses would cause some businesses not to renew."

In the 2017 legislative session, State Rep. Jerry Obermueller, R-Casper, had proposed raising businesses' annual filing fees from $50 to $150.

Murray opposed that proposal at the time, saying it would be an irresponsible decision without first understanding what the ramifications would be.

When the bill reached the Wyoming Senate, it died in committee per an agreement to study the issue in the interim.

Murray's office then commissioned that study, completed by three MBA students at the University of Wyoming, to examine the consequences of several proposals, including Obermueller's bill.

Murray said the study confirmed his suspicions that a fee hike was a "bad idea" and would reduce revenue.

The three students joined Murray in testifying at Monday's legislative hearing.

Business filings have increased more than 60 percent since Murray took over a Secretary of State.

Murray said the increase is a result of the "efficiencies and modernizations" he's implemented that have "raised revenue organically."

Since last year, his office now allows businesses to file their paperwork online. Murray said processes that used to take two weeks now take 20 minutes.

"And you have these legislators that really have no idea what we're doing in our department, but are looking for ways to tax and increase fees," he said. "I will fight day and night for small business."

Murray said there's "no rational basis" to raise fees, especially because it already costs less for his office to process paperwork than businesses are charged.

Murray is still weighing whether he'll run for governor next fall and told The Ranger on Tuesday that he has "not made a final decision."

"I think there will be a campaign -- whether it's for Secretary of State or perhaps governor remains to be seen," he said. "I'm going to take my time in making that decision."

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Secretary of State Ed Murray, right, toured a business building in Dubois that has been built since a devastating New Year's Eve fire destroyed much of the downtown business community. Photo by Will Dineen

Secretary of State Ed Murray, right, toured a business building in Dubois that has been built since a devastating New Year's Eve fire destroyed much of the downtown business community. Photo by Will Dineen


Secretary of State Ed Murray, right, toured a business building in Dubois that has been built since a devastating New Year's Eve fire destroyed much of the downtown business community. Photo by Will Dineen

Secretary of State Ed Murray, right, toured a business building in Dubois that has been built since a devastating New Year's Eve fire destroyed much of the downtown business community. Photo by Will Dineen

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2017-10-20