As a highly resource-dependent state, Wyoming’s fiscal situation fluctuates greatly from year to year. Improving regulatory policy can be a way to diversify the economy, and the Equality State could also stand to improve on personal freedom, where it is below average.
Wyoming is a relatively fiscally decentralized state, especially for its small population. Excluding mineral severance revenues, state taxes come to a projected 4.0 percent of personal income in FY 2015, well below the national average and a big decline from FY 2009. Local taxes stand at about 4.5 percent of income, slightly above the national average. However, Wyomingites have little choice in local government, with less than 0.10 effective competing jurisdictions per 100 square miles of private land, thus squandering the advantages of fiscal decentralization. The state spends almost nothing on subsidies, and government debt is the lowest in the country (a mere 6.8 percent of income), but state and local employment is enormous (19.4 percent of private employment, a big increase over 2008 when it was 17.8 percent).
Wyoming does well on land-use freedom, although we show that regulation has increased over the 2000s. Labor law is generally good, with no minimum wage and a right-to-work law, but employers must obtain workers’ compensation coverage from a monopoly state fund, and anti-discrimination law goes beyond the federal minimum. A telecom deregulation bill was passed in 2013–14. Occupational licensing has grown over time but is still well below the national average. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants also enjoy broad scope of practice. Wyoming is the best state for insurance freedom, lacking price controls on property and casualty lines. Still, life insurance policies require prior approval, even though the state is a member of the IIPRC. Its price-gouging law was repealed many years ago, but it still has a Depression-era “unfair sales act” on the books. Its civil liability system is good, even though the state has not reformed punitive damages at all.
Wyoming’s criminal justice policies are similar to those of a Mississippi or Alabama. Incarceration and victimless crime arrest rates are high and have generally risen over time. Asset forfeiture is virtually unreformed (owners must prove their innocence), and so local law enforcement chooses not to participate in equitable sharing much. Cannabis laws are predictably bad, though not among the very harshest. Wyoming is one of the very best states for gun rights, having passed constitutional carry in 2009–10. The only areas where it could improve involve removing location restrictions for carry, allowing nonresident licenses, and specifying no duty to retreat in public. Alcohol freedom is a bit above average despite state liquor stores, because taxes are so low. The state has almost no legal gambling other than social games. Nonsectarian private schools are strictly regulated, and there are no private school choice programs. Tobacco freedom is above average. Same-sex marriage was judicially enacted in 2014.