WHAT IS A SPET MEASURE?
The Specific Purpose Excise Tax (SPET) is an additional penny of sales tax collected in Teton County that goes towards voter-approved projects. SPET was introduced in 1980 and brings in about $15 million every year. Sales tax is paid by both local residents and by visitors, with about 60% of the total SPET revenue coming from non-residents. This tax is a great way to leverage tourism to benefit the local community!
Voters can choose to support as many projects as they wish with this revenue. The number of projects approved does not increase the amount of tax imposed, it only extends the length of time the tax is collected. If no new proposals are approved, the tax collection ends when the previously-approved projects are fully funded.
WHY SHOULD WE CARE?
Because most of the taxes in Wyoming are controlled at the state level, the SPET ballot is one way we have the opportunity to increase public funding opportunities for deed-restricted housing available to local workers, retirees, and families.
We are excited that so many entities in our community are recognizing and taking steps to address their housing needs. We support all efforts to enable our most vulnerable community members to live locally. We ask that electeds direct these various organizations to work together to come up with a unified plan to put housing initiatives on the SPET ballot. We all need to work together to address this critical issue as a united community. All of these entities will be more successful in their search for funding if they communicate and work as a team. It is critical that we collaborate to solve our housing emergency.
Moreover, we recognize that the reason these groups are vying for funding is because SPET is one of the few ways to secure meaningful sources of revenue. A new revenue stream like the real estate tax could be passed during the next legislative session. We hope that these organizations will support a new meaningful and reliable source of funding for local housing.
There will be an in-person SPET forum on October 13 at 6pm at the Teton County Library. The open house will begin at 5pm.
Get ready to vote on SPET items this election day, November 8!
HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?
Stay updated on SPET discussions by following ShelterJH’s publications. You can always weigh in on projects that you think are important by emailing your Councilors (email@example.com) and Commissioners (firstname.lastname@example.org). Make sure you are registered to vote and know where to vote as well—if you live in Teton County, you will have the opportunity to vote on these measures during the election!
Projects that passed during the 2019 SPET election include: building a vehicle maintenance facility for START ($18.5 million), purchasing four wildland fire engines ($1.6 million), creating a history museum on the Genevieve block ($4.4 million), building wildlife crossings infrastructure ($10 million) and $5.5 million for housing opportunities through the Jackson/Teton County Affordable Housing Department.
In 2019, the only SPET measure that failed was a proposal to retrofit the County Courthouse.
Is there any controversy surrounding SPET?
Regressive nature of the tax
A regressive tax is imposed on everyone equally, so lower-income folks actually pay a higher percentage of their income on these taxes. Progressive taxes are levied proportionally to one’s income, and increase for higher income or wealth levels. Sales tax is regressive. To ease concerns about the SPET being a regressive tax, unprepared food (groceries) are exempt.