Senator Mike Enzi (ME): Good Morning.
Dave Lerner (DL): Morning.
Dave Perry (DP): Good morning Senator.
ME: I'm glad that you're joining me from my weekly program where I visit with some folks from Wyoming. I just got back from Wyoming, in fact by next week, I will have been to every county in Wyoming since I took office.
DL: Wow, and only five and a half more years until the campaign.
ME: Well, I said that I'd get back and talk to the folks, and that's what I've been doing. And it really is helpful. I've talked to grade school kids, and senior citizens, and business groups, and practically anybody that will meet with me on a weekend, because that's the only time that I get off of course. With the exception of, in another week. I'm going to be holding hearings in Casper at the Parkway Plaza on April 3rd at 9 a.m. on entrepreneurship in business, solutions for regulatory reform, and tax reform for small businesses. I'm inviting 10 people to come and provide testimony on common sense solutions to small business problems in Wyoming. The National Federation of Independent Businesses has pointed out that eight out of 10 small businesses are hampered by regulation and unfair taxes and even a Presidential White House seminar pointed out exactly the same thing, that eight out of 10 small businesses are hampered by exclusive regulations and the need for tax reform. So we're going to have some hearings on that, and I'm hoping that anybody that knows of any problems that they're having in their small business will write to us and let us know those small business problems. We're going to try and bring some common sense to the United States Senate through regulation reform and tax reform. And we need those stories, and we'll be having future hearings and we'll use the people that wrote in to provide the information for those hearings.
DL: Senator, when you're talking tax reform, are you talking reform of the current system, or something really radical such as a flat tax?
ME: We're talking about reform of the current system at the present time. I'm an incremental legislator. I know that you can't take the pendulum from one side and jerk it clear over to the other side. You gotta bring it across slowly. And there's a lot of things that need to be done that aren't real drastic right now that people are talking about. They're ready to do them, and it will help to make things easier in filing taxes. Some of them will also stimulate business. We've already worked on the alternative minimum taxes that applied to a cash basis of accounting for farmers and ranchers. The Internal Revenue Service, after 10 years of handling it, where they pay at the time they receive their money, changed it to they have to pay it at the time they sell their product. And that escalated the time backwards that they have to pay. It was a tax increase. We put in a bill to take that on, we debated it on the floor, and before we could even pass it, the Internal Revenue Service reversed themselves on that issue. We're also looking at doing some things in capital gains tax, estate taxes, the Individual Retirement Account, taxes so that they have a little bit more flexibility in use. And we're looking at a whole range of incentives for business. But in that same area, there are things that will stimulate business which will bring in additional taxes which will help us to balance the budget.
DP: Senator, may I ask, where is the pendulum right now? Did the Republican Congress as it so much talked about, make some progress in swinging the pendulum back toward less regulation? Do you see the pendulum at one extreme right now?
ME: There's been some progress at bringing it back. In the last congress, they passed several things that are a help particularly to small businesses, but there are a lot of things that have been left undone out there. One of the things we're working on is the Family Friendly Workplace Act. And that's simply a right that will be given to businesses that government already enjoys, and that's to allow their employees to work extra time in one week, and take that as paid time in another week. They can bank hours for critical events in their life or celebrations in their life, or even for soccer matches if they want. That right is given to federal employees at the present time. It is not given to private business. We're just trying to level the playing field a little bit with that. That's one example.
DP: May I continue?
DP: What's going to happen with capital gains taxes? Everybody talks about that, we've heard this discussion for years and years. Do you actually expect something to move in the terms of reducing the capital gains tax rates sometime soon?
ME: Yes, I do expect something will happen sometime soon. It sounds like there has been a compromise arrived at by those that don't want any and those that want a capital gains tax, and that's to allow 50% of a person's tax bracket to be used as the amount of capital gains tax. So that would be a reduction for everybody, even the person who pays the least in income tax, as well as those that pay a great deal in income tax. So it would encourage moving around some property, making some investments, and I think that will stimulate the economy.
DL: Senator, I was wondering if I could ask you about another topic, the brucellosis question here where we have a number of states, Alabama, Oregon, Colorado, calling for a ban on Wyoming beef, because of the fear about brucellosis. Is there something you can do from Washington to kind of reverse this trend and ease these fear that these other states seem to be having about brucellosis?
ME: Well, we're working on our end. Actually we have a team concept where Rep. Cubin, Senator Thomas and I and the governor of the state work together on issues. The Governor is taking the lead on this because it's more of a state issue than it is a federal issue. Our roll in Washington is to keep the other states from panicking over the situation and to realize some of the unfairness that's involved in it. For instance, Alabama has said that Wyoming can't ship beef there. But they are not proven to be brucellosis-free at the moment. So there causing us to meet regulation that they're not meeting, and we already were meeting them and proving that we were meeting them for a 10 year period. So our main job is to make sure that the other states don't panic, and keep adding to the list, while the governor goes through the process that he has put into effect now, where he's gotten the other states to hold off for a while while we continue to prove, and to a greater level than we have in the past, that we are brucellosis-free, and I think that will help.
DL: Is it tough to prove it to them, or are they receptive to the changes, or are they resisting the idea and have some real concerns?
ME: They seem extremely willing to listen and talk to their veterinarians and ask them not to take unusual action, realizing that if something happens in the future that's an unusual reaction that deals with some kind of industry in their state, we would have the same tendency to overreact in our state and it would be our job as the Senators from Wyoming and the Representative from Wyoming to keep the Wyoming people calm while it is thoroughly checked out.
DP: I wanted to hear what you think about what' going on with bison in Yellowstone. Now I see that there's something in the neighborhood of 1,000 bison have been killed this year. What is your generalized view on that subject? Do you think that we're managing it properly, and what would be your role in that situation?
ME: Well I had a meeting with Mike Finley and we talked a little bit about brucellosis, and game management in the Park, and I do think there needs to be an increase in the game management in the Park. I was a little bit concerned about even the numbers that are
being used for the number of bison that are currently there. I don't know if they've got a good count. So we don't know what percentage of the population is being wiped out. But I do think they have to take some action to eliminate the brucellosis in the herd up there. We're hearing that action has been taken on the elk, primarily the ones that come out of the park. But there is some success in controlling the brucellosis among the elk. I think that that could be done with the bison too, if there was a concentration in the game management there.
DP: Senator, do they need more money to do that?
ME: I haven't run into a federal agency yet that when they were asked to do something didn't claim that they need more money.
DP: Well, is it legitimate.?
ME: I've asked for a lot of figures and budgets from Yellowstone Park. Of course I have an ongoing interest in Yellowstone Park, anyway, I kind of grew up there and I do think that it's one of the treasures of our state and the United States, and I'm concerned about them talking about cutting down the park time. I'm concerned about them turning the wolf program over to Wyoming. And I'm concerned about their cry for money, and their lack of long term planning. And their lack of a response to the state of Wyoming when the state of Wyoming has offered to help out in those areas that they can. So, before I talk about how much money they need, I need to see what they've been doing with the money that they have. I talked about strategic planning when I was running for office. I think it is extemely important with every single agency to tell about what their main objective is and their mission, and then come up with objectives and make those objectives measurable, and prioritized so we know particularly what they're trying to do. And then when you do budgeting, you don't let them eliminate the most visible thing that they do, unless that's the lowest priority that they have. And I think that will help to straighten out Yellowstone Park. I did ask for their strategic plan. I thought we would have to pass a law back here that would require the strategic planning. I found out that three years ago they passed a law that's called "Good Government Performance and Results", and it already required the stuff. So all I'm doing now is asking the agencies to meet the requirements that are already in place and get this prioritized, measurable goal process in place, and I think it will help us tremendously with our budgeting and help us a lot in helping people to get things done that they need as an agency, provided that they are the really important things for that agency.
DL: Senator, there was that campaign finance reform bill which I believe both you and Senator Thomas voted against, and we were also hearing on the other side of it calls for a special prosecutor to investigate the administration because of campaign finance problems. Where do you fall in terms of this? Do we need to have something by law that would change the way that campaigns are paid for?
ME: We absolutely need to have some campaign reform. The issue that's before us is one of voting on a change in the Constitution to eliminate some of the free speech provided for in the first amendment. There are a lot of people that think that Congress ought to have the right to write some new rules about how much advertising we can do. It could even get into whether newspapers have the right to write beyond a limited number of editorials for or against any candidate. If this amendment to the Constitution passes, we will not have free speech when it comes to elections. Everything will be possible to be governed by Congress and so Senator Thomas and I are both opposing that. We think that there's plenty of room to make adequate campaign reform within the current law. We're talking about doing some things in truth and advertising, we're talking about better disclosure about where every single dollar comes from. We're talking about some limitations, or elimination of the soft money aspect, so that every dollar that's spent for a candidate is approved by that candidate and then he has to be responsible for the kinds of stuff that comes out of his campaign as a result of having that money. And some limitations on spending, but more from the aspect of how much money can be given by any one group or person.
DL: Where do you stand on the situation of the administration's campaign financing? I don't know how you want to describe it, is it a situation?
ME: I don't think that the campaign, the president's proposal, will be possible unless this constitutional amendment passes. Because he wants to some rather severe restraints on people in exchange for free media time. As a small businessman, I know that I couldn't afford to give away my product. And I don't think that I'm in a position where I can force anybody else to give away their product in exchange for some value that I have, and that they may not have. So I don't like the idea of forcing people to give free campaign time. I think it is the American public's responsibility to find out what their candidates are thinking and doing, and back them in a number of ways, the most effective way is of course, are the grassroots ways, and that also goes into helping to fund the campaigns though.
DL: Do you think we need a special prosecutor to investigate the President?
ME: Yes, I think we need a special prosecutor to take a look at the situation, to reassure the American people if there is a problem or not. I personally do think there is a problem. Congress is not concentrating that much on the problem. It's the media now that has grasped onto the weekly changes and things that are being shown to be wrong out here. They're hanging in there like bulldogs. I saw that one other time in history, and the public is noticing that it's the media and not Congress that's making the main emphasis and I think that pretty quick that the public is going to be insisting on a special prosecutor, and it will have to be done. There are things out there that need to be looked at and that's the best way to reassure the American public.
DP: Which things specifically do you think need to be looked at Senator?
ME: Well, there are a number of things that have come out in the investigation in the White House to what level there have been violations of laws that already are in place, as far as campaigns. Not ones that we might do, but ones that were already there. And that deals mostly with accepting money from foreign countries. That is expressly prohibited already, and there appears that that's happened. It appears that's happened on federal property and that's another violation.
DP: And in your travels around Wyoming, do you hear people specifically talking about those possible violations? Do you hear people talking about the use of the Lincoln bedroom? Is that something that's on the minds of the Wyoming constituents that you have had contact with?
ME: Yes it is, mostly because they're reading about it in the paper, and they want to know more details of which I don't have. The newspapers and other media have more information on it than I could possibly have, and that isn't where I'm concentrating my efforts. I was concentrating on the Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment. I was terribly disappointed that that failed by one vote, and that there were people on the other side that advertised to get in to office that they would vote for it, they had voted for it. They'd voted for it in that form. They'd continue to vote for it, until it passed and then they didn't vote for it. But one of the things that we got done during that process was to get people committed to balancing the budget. Now we'll see if they keep those promises too. And that's a major concern as I travel around the state. The balanced budget, regulatory reform, and tax relief, and most of the tax relief they're looking at is simplification of their taxes. I do hear a lot of people say that if you have to balance the budget, don't give any tax breaks. And that's a concern that's refreshing to hear out there that people are saying, as long as you can balance the budget, that's a sacrifice we'll make in the short term as long as you keep balancing the budget and keep working towards getting us some tax relief.
DL: Well Senator you've covered a lot of topics, and I appreciate the time. I don't know if Dave has additional questions, but I've got plenty to keep me busy during the day.
ME: I really appreciate the media, and especially you taking the time to give me the help doing this on Monday and covering a range of topics that are of concern to the people of Wyoming. It helps me a lot.