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Wyoming REALTORS® Derails Tax on Services Threat with Timely Advocacy

The Wyoming Association of REALTORS®  (WAR) is careful to use Calls For Action (CFA) sparingly, sending a few out each year to keep members in practice, but “never so many that they feel like we’re asking for help every time they turn around,” says Government Affairs Director Laurie Urbigkit. “Our members know that if they get a CFA from me,” she says, “it means the world is coming to an end!”  

Early in 2017, just such an extreme situation developed in the Wyoming statehouse, and when Urbigkit put out the call, the REALTORS® responded accordingly. The end of the world, in this case, was the threat of a tax on all services that had suddenly appeared on the agenda of the House Revenue Committee, without debate or public testimony. The bill bore the benign title, ‘HB 243 School Finance-Capital Construction Funding,’ but would have imposed a comprehensive sales tax on services provided by all professionals, from barbers to babysitters.  For the real estate industry, it would not only have added to an agent’s commission, but to the appraisal, title insurance, closing fee, loan fees, inspections, repairs, surveys and legal fees.  WAR was keenly aware that, in addition to burdening the operation of real estate brokerages as small businesses, these added costs would effectively block many first-time home buyers from the market.

The association had actually been keeping an eye out for such threats to the industry. In recent years, as Wyoming’s mineral-based economy has been driven down by low oil and gas prices, explains Urbigkit, the state’s general revenue has been substantially reduced, putting pressure on the Revenue Committee to find sources elsewhere. In fact, this bill had died in committee just last September for lack of a motion, “because no one would touch it,” she says. But the committee had experienced a turnover in seven-out-of-nine seats since November’s election, and the chairman decided to revisit the proposal.

Urbigkit leapt to action, alerting all WAR members who are constituents of Revenue Committee members that it was time to make their voices heard. “The REALTOR® Party Hub email communications system is great,” she says. “I can target our members by committee, or by district, and engage them very easily in our advocacy efforts.”  Just as Urbigkit is careful not to ‘cry wolf’ with too many Calls for Action to her members, she also guards the Wyoming legislators from undue bombardment. In order to protect the value of their messages, her members are only asked to contact representatives of their own districts. “Our legislators know that when the REALTORS® are concerned, they’re getting messages from their own constituents, and that carries much more weight than flooding their in-boxes indiscriminately.”       

In response to the urgent CFA regarding the tax on services, a concentrated blast of emails to the House Revenue Committee ensued, complementing WAR’s in-person lobbying efforts. The bill was defeated in a 0-9 vote. “We’re very fortunate to have tools like this at our disposal!” says Urbigkit, adding, “The technology is so precise and effective, and our members are right there with it.”

To learn more about how Wyoming REALTORS® are protecting the real estate industry and keeping homeownership accessible for first-time buyers, contact Laurie Urbigkit, Government Affairs Director of the Wyoming Association of REALTORS®, at 307-851-1191.

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