Budget reform at the top of Enzi's to-do list

Mike Enzi has been waiting for this day.

The U.S. Senator from Gillette returned to Washington, D.C., on Sunday to begin his 20th year representing Wyoming.

Only this time, the president-elect is Republican and his party — Republican — also enjoys the majority in the U.S. Senate and House. He’s ready to begin work on a package of proposals and bills, many focused on budget reform “in a nonpartisan way,” and hopes they’ll succeed.

At the same time, he’s warning other lawmakers that Donald Trump was elected president and Republicans were returned to the majority in the House and Senate for a reason, to get something done. That’s just what Americans want, he added.

It will take cooperation with Democrats to make that happen, whether or not Republicans are willing admit it. Without Democrats buying into some of the plans, efforts to change how the federal government does business could stall in Congress.

“Talking to people in all of Wyoming during my travels, what most people want are jobs,” Enzi said Friday as he wrapped up a Veterans Day ceremony at the Primrose Retirement Community in Gillette. “People realize that energy is never just about coal, oil, gas, uranium.”

He said OPEC tries to manipulate the price of oil by saying it will lower production, but the countries of OPEC never actually do so. Some people find ways to take advantage whether oil prices go up or down, he added.

That’s where production in America could make a difference in the lives of those in this country, and that effort should begin anew.

“That’s one of the things people are upset with, energy and Obama’s (approach) to keep it in the ground,” he said.

Under the Barack Obama administration, the U.S. is spending $5 billion a year to prove climate change is real. Instead, the administration could have put that investment into finding ways to use C02 gases or coal emissions in other ways, including sequestration, that are safe for the environment, he said.

Enzi’s heartened by the efforts in Wyoming and Gillette to do just that through the laboratory being built by the state at the Dry Fork Power Plant and the XPrize effort.

He noted that under Obama’s Clean Power Plan, Wyoming got charged for producing and using coal, which is the only energy exported from Wyoming. He said the Wyoming Legislature is and should look at the possibility of exporting renewables — such as wind — and charging other states for that production.

Budget reform

As the only accountant on the budget committee, though, Enzi’s first efforts in Washington will be for budget reform.

He still feels Congress can work together to agree on the 80 percent of the budget that both sides support and then — hopefully — get more work done before disagreeing on the 10 percent of the budget that is most contentious and each party can’t agree on.

“I’d like to make it (Congressional budget) more like Wyoming, where it’s a balanced budget,” he said, noting that in each of the past four years, the budget committee has proposed a budget on time.

He’d like to have a set time for the Congress to consider specialty funding bills, too.

Enzi noted that the total budget for the Congress and federal government is $1.70 trillion. Right now, 5 percent of that money is going just to pay the interest rates on what the feds have borrowed for its programs.

If interest rates go up even slightly, within 10 years, those interest payments could reach $1 trillion.

Then the Congress will have a budget of just $70 billion (without debt) to conduct its business, and with 96,000 employees in D.C. alone — the largest company in the U.S. — it’s handcuffing itself with debt and deficit spending, he said.

Enzi has several proposals, including approving the federal government budget on a biannual basis, similar to the Wyoming Legislature, and moving budget items into a mandatory revenue stream.

Penny Plan

He also continues to propose his Penny Plan, something he said is gaining more supporters each year, in which Congress would cut its spending by a penny for every dollar the federal government spends to balance the budget within five years. Once balanced, the budget would be capped at 18 percent GDP each year or about $8.7 trillion over 10 years.

He said Trump called during the presidential campaign and asked who was the best budget person to work with. Enzi said he suggested someone on his staff and then allowed that person to consult with Trump.

“Then he got a good tax person. And he’s listening to them," Enzi said.

The evidence, he added, is he can hear Trump using Enzi’s ideas and language — “not the rough talk” — as he discussed his budget proposals during the campaign. “He’s getting good people,” he added.

So he’s optimistic as the new session of Congress nears.

Source: Gillette News Record