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Casper
The Star-Tribune will take a break on Christmas to give our employees time with their families

As we all know, Christmas is a time for family. It’s a time to be home with those you love, sharing stories, giving gifts and making merry.

It’s for that reason that we’ll be doing something different this year. We won’t be producing a Christmas Day newspaper. That decision will allow our newspaper carriers to spend Christmas at home with their families rather than delivering papers. Our pressmen and mailroom employees will spend Christmas Eve with their loved ones rather than making newspapers.

While this is a change from what we’ve done in the recent past, it’s actually a return to an older way of doing things. It was only in the early part of the last decade that we began publishing a Christmas Day newspaper. Before then, the Star-Tribune didn’t publish on either Christmas Day or the day after, so that our workers could spend time at home, enjoying the holiday with their families.

We’ve decided it’s best to return to that approach this year. We will resume delivery on Dec. 26, and our website, Trib.com, will be available for news the entire holiday season, including Christmas Day.

To our readers across Wyoming and beyond, thank you for your support of the Star-Tribune. Thank you for subscribing, for buying at the newsstand and for reading online.

Merry Christmas.


Casper
How one Casper man went from riding in a biker gang to running a soup kitchen

John Potter stood outside Albertsons and rang his small red handbell, greeting shoppers with an endless jingle as they walked through the front door. The bell, dwarfed in the grip of his tattooed knuckles, chimed over the traffic passing in front of the east-side Casper grocery store.

“Merry Christmas!” he called through the unusually warm December day. “God bless!”

Some shoppers stopped to talk to Potter as he collected donations for the Salvation Army. Some he called to by name — many had come to him in times of need.

An older man walked into the store, his frame hunched over his cart. Potter waved and said hello. The man grunted a reply. Potter knew the man, he said, and also the yellow and maroon windbreaker he wore.

“That’s my jacket,” Potter said as the man disappeared into the store. “I gave him that jacket a while ago.”

Potter pointed to a red patch on the shoulder of his own black coat.

“People trust this shield,” he said, fingers lightly brushing the Salvation Army insignia.

Potter’s familiar with patches, though of a different style. For more than two decades, Potter rode with a notorious biker gang and collected on their debts. He fought and drank and partied.

But then his mom fell sick. He returned to his native Casper. And by a stroke of fate, he fell into work with the Salvation Army.

Since then, Potter has served more than 1.5 million meals for the poor and worked countless hours as a volunteer and employee. He still spends hours on the road, but now he pilots a boxy Salvation Army emergency disaster truck to floods and fires, where he serves food and offers hope.

“I’m proven fact that people do change,” he said earlier this month, bell in hand. “I’m proof that people have good hearts.”

Rough and tumble

Potter built his first bike by age 13 and soon discovered the thrill of Wyoming’s limitless roads. He felt best when he was going so fast he couldn’t breathe.

In his 20s, Potter fell in with a biker gang. For more than two decades, Potter rode with his adopted brotherhood. He collected on their debts. He watched friends fight with fists and knives. He watched friends get hurt; he helped beat up others. He spent time in jail. He made lots of money sometimes, other times it was hard to get by.

It was a violent, quicksilver type of life. But he was free, or so he believed.

In the early 2000s, Potter’s mom became sick. He returned to his native Casper for a visit. A few days after his return, he saw an old friend standing outside the Salvation Army building on Center Street and stopped to chat.

During their conversation, Potter mentioned that his mom didn’t have any milk in the house. His friend offered a jug from the Salvation Army’s warehouse. When he offered to pay, the friend refused. That’s what the Salvation Army does, she said.

Potter returned a few days later to clean dishes as a volunteer and repay his debt. Soon he was coming once a week. Then those weekly stints turned into daily volunteer work.

The good, hard-working people who surrounded him started to rub off on him, Potter said. The work made him feel good. There was no moment of epiphany, just a gradual thawing of the heart.

So Potter traded in the freedom of the road for the Army’s kitchen and warehouse. He found a new place to belong. He found spiritual freedom in service.

“There’s a lot of things in my life I can’t make up for,” he said. “But now I’m giving instead of taking.”

Within a few years, he racked up 3,500 volunteer hours. The Salvation Army offered him a job. For the last 10 years, Potter has mopped floors, served meals and led Bible studies. He can’t even estimate how many times he’s wished passerby a Merry Christmas while he rang a red bell.

“I don’t have to be that rough and tumble guy anymore,” he said. “I’ve got the best job in the world.”

Stepping up

He gave up the gang, but Potter’s still a biker. He tries to ride at least a few miles every day and makes the trip to Sturgis once a year. He still has the beard and the earrings and the tattoos: a screaming devil wrapped in barbed wire on his neck, crosses on his fingers, a solid cascade of skulls running down one arm.

Every morning, the rumble from Potter’s Harley shatters the quiet of the pre-dawn dark as he makes his way to work. By 5:30 a.m., he begins to prep breakfast with a couple of volunteers, setting out cereals and cooking up potatoes. By 6 a.m., people start trickling through the doors, searching for a warm place to stay.

Potter knows every nook and cranny of the downtown facility. Framed certificates of achievement and gratitude fill his office walls. More are piled on his desk, but there’s no space left to hang them. He walks through the dark basement warehouse while the lights are off without hesitation. His pride for the place is abundant. Here are the thousands of waterbottles ready to be shipped to any nearby emergency, he tells visitors. Here are the buckets of cleaning supplies, to be distributed to those whose houses are affected by flood or fire. Here are the food pantry shelves, currently sparse, but waiting to be restocked.“If I’m doing the Lord’s work, I don’t have full shelves,” he said.

The holiday season is Potter’s busiest. He works in the kitchen in the morning, then rings bells until it’s time to start cooking dinner. By the the time he’s back on his bike to go home, he’s worked a 15-hour day. He hasn’t had a day off since mid-November, he said. He’s rang the red bell in sleet and wind and rain. The clanging of the bell creeps into his dreams some nights.

His past and its remaining physical markers help him connect with the people he helps. They feel comfortable talking to him about the complexities of their lives, he said. They know he won’t judge them.

The work can wear on a person, Potter said. It becomes difficult to be endlessly strong for those who come to him. Working with so much human suffering can take a toll. Potter finds strength in the other Salvation Army staff. He finds fulfillment in taking the hands of a person in need and joining them in prayer.

Now in his 50s, Potter looks forward to the simple joys of life. He wants to see LeBron James play ball in Cleveland. He spends time with his granddaughters, who call him Bobo. He fishes.

His work has also revealed a new side of his hometown. He marvels at how various nonprofits and businesses work together to make sure there is food for the hungry and coats for the cold. Grocery stores donate tons of food to the Salvation Army kitchen and food pantry. Organizations raise money and donate coats.

“You have no idea how this community steps up,” he said. “Nobody sees it, it’s all done behind the scenes. But I’ve never seen such a little town provide so much.”

On a recent Friday in the Salvation Army warehouse, Potter showed a homeless woman the coat room. She briefly looked through the hundreds of jackets before pulling out a tan knee-length coat and a shorter red one. She paused, uncertain in her decision. She liked the red coat for the color — wouldn’t it be nice to have something bright? — but thought the tan would be warmer.

Potter halted her deliberations.“Take them both,” he said, convincing her that it was OK.As she walked out the door, Potter reminded her that she could come to him for anything. He would be there.

“God bless you,” he called. “Whatever you need.”


Casper
LOOK BACK
'Once in a lifetime' total solar eclipse -- and thousands -- come to Casper

“Once in a lifetime,” is a broad brush to use.

But those brush strokes best describe central Wyoming in the third week of August, when the total solar eclipse perched right over Casper and other points along Highway 20-26.

Many cried. Many had goosebumps.

The event brought thousands of visitors to Casper and spurred public venues and new businesses to push to open before then.

Although the number of actual visitors to the state was smaller than initially anticipated, the Great American Eclipse was still a historical weekend by any measure.

Official numbers placed about 99,000 out-of-state visitors as having come solely to view the eclipse, according to a report released by the Wyoming Office of Tourism in mid-December. Many more reported coming to Wyoming to enjoy the eclipse, among other features.

Initial numbers by the Wyoming Department of Transportation reported a 536,000-car increase over the five-year average for that day, almost 68 percent more than normal.

“If you go by yesterday... and figure two people in every car, you could say roughly a million people,” said Jeff Goetz, a public information officer for the department.

The David Street Station downtown was finished just before the four-day Wyoming Eclipse Festival began, and thousands visited the open-air space, outdoor stage and vendors lining the walkways. Moorcroft’s own Chancey Williams & the Younger Brothers Band performed a free concert to standing room only crowds on the afternoon of the eclipse.

The astronomical phenomenon itself is what drew most of the international travelers to Casper. By the end, even school children knew about the 2 minutes and 42 seconds of totality at exactly 11:42 a.m. on Aug. 21.

Police closed downtown streets to vehicle traffic and lifted open container laws for the weekend once they saw the throngs of people walking down Second Street from David Street Station to newly opened bars and restaurants.

Generally, it was a well-behaved crowd who did not bring the rowdy factor that some had feared.

They enjoyed Casper’s downtown core and placed pins designating their hometowns on a world map in front of the Downtown Development Authority office.

Fred Espenak, also known as “Mr. Eclipse,” drew a rock star-like following during his time in Casper. He’s NASA’s eclipse expert and still maintains the space agency’s eclipse website. He spoke at AstroCon 2017 and then at a public talk sponsored by the Casper Star-Tribune on the afternoon before the eclipse. Hours before his talk, fans were flocking to the Lyric, asking where to stand in line for his presentation.

Although hotels, which had quadrupled their rates, were by and large filled, some folks with an empty piece of land offering “dry camping,” were left with few, if any, takers.

Among the arts events that people are still raving about months later were the Pink Floyd tribute performance outdoors at Mike Lansing Field, complete with a laser light show, and the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra which played music from space movies outdoors at Washington Park. A summer shower delayed the symphony program, but the rain did not take away from the enjoyment of those in attendance.

As Monday morning approached, those who had worked to plan days of festivities were left to worry about what the actual phenomenon would bring.

And then, without a cloud in sight, the sky began to darken. The temperature dropped 16 degrees. Birds fell silent. Solar-activated pathway lights came on.

And standing outside, roars could be heard wherever pockets of people were gathered. Faces lifted to the heavens and it was truly remarkable.

More than 120,000 people entered four of Wyoming’s state parks — Glendo, Boysen, Guernsey and Sinks Canyon — during eclipse weekend, setting records and far exceeding expectations.

At the Natrona County International Airport west of town, 200 slots had been reserved on the tarmac, with most private planes not arriving until Monday morning. At a hospitality area arranged by Atlantic Aviation, the company that manages logistics at the airport, a map pinned to a chain-link fence showed where visitors had flown in from. The bulk were American, but Brazil, New Zealand, Kazakhstan and other far-flung countries were represented.

“It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” one woman said.

And then, minutes after the eclipse was over, the airplanes departed.

When it was over, young and old, scientists and not, tried to talk about what they had just seen, often finding that the correct words were hard to come by.

A mother tried her best to explain to her daughter what they had witnessed.

When it finished, Emma Meyer, 6, looked at her mom and said: “I was so excited I felt like my brain was cracked open.”

Once in a lifetime, indeed.


Federal
GOP TAX PLAN
Wyoming's wealthy to reap massive rewards under tax plan, businesses expect boost too

The most sweeping rewrite of the nation’s tax laws in more than three decades is expected to provide modest, temporary benefits to most Cowboy State taxpayers while delivering massive rewards to wealthy residents and boosting businesses. It may also imperil some social service programs through indirect cuts and changes.

The state’s all-Republican delegation, U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi and Rep. Liz Cheney, have consistently touted the plan as a middle-class tax cut and, according to most estimates, nearly all state residents will see at least a temporary tax break — an average of over $600 per family.

But the richest 1 percent of Wyomingites — less than 3,000 people, who earn an average of $2.2 million per year — will receive 42 percent of the tax plan’s benefits in the state. The bottom 80 percent will receive just 22 percent, according to an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

By repealing the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that individuals purchase health insurance, critics argue premiums may spike and tens-of-thousands of Wyomingites may go uncovered, though other observers say it is too early to determine the impact of that provision.

Because it adds to the federal deficit, the bill may also trigger cuts to programs like Medicare and Medicaid and may reduce the amount of mineral royalty payments to Wyoming, money that is used to fund state programs.

Republicans argue that the new tax law, including the benefits for wealthy individuals and corporations, will grow the economy such that everyone — the working class included — will reap the benefits of higher wages and more jobs. They say that repealing the health insurance mandate will offer consumers more options while leaving the health care exchanges otherwise intact. Observers in Wyoming aren’t sure what the final impact will be, with small business owners cautiously optimistic and health care watchers saying that while the law may destabilize insurance markets in the state it’s too early to predict exactly what will happen.

Corporate break

Josh Galemore, Star-Tribune  

Celest White, production manager at 1890 Inc., prints T-shirts in August at the company's office off Yellowstone Highway. Owner Scott Cotton said that if the business saves enough in taxes, it might be able to hire more workers.

While Barrasso, Cheney and Enzi have largely focused on the tax cuts being offered to working class families, other Republican lawmakers have said that is not the focus of the legislation.

“It’s fundamentally a corporate tax reduction and restructuring bill, period,” Rep. Mark Sanford, R-South Carolina, told the Washington Post. “(T)here’s trimming if you will, extras, that are built around indeed trying to help folks at different income levels but that’s not what the core of what the bill is.”

The plan, which was signed by President Donald Trump on Friday, slashes the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. It will also provide benefits to so-called pass through businesses that are not organized as corporations.

Despite GOP talk of spending discipline, the plan is projected to add $1.46 trillion to the nation’s debt over a decade. GOP lawmakers say they expect a future Congress to continue the tax cuts so they won’t expire. If achieved, that would drive up deficits even further.

Wyoming and the new GOP tax plan: How it has unfolded

But Cheney has argued that the tax cuts will spur economic growth, which will then shrink the deficit.

“The only way we can deal with the deficit effectively is to get economic growth going,” Cheney told an audience in northwest Wyoming two weeks ago, according to the Cody Enterprise.

Several Wyoming business owners are still working out what what the plan will mean for their companies.

John Johnson, owner of Casper’s Johnson Restaurant Group, said that Wyoming’s poor economy during the last two years has made business difficult and tax relief might provide a cushion.

“Any help that you get on that side of the equation, the tax side of the equation, is definitely going to help us,” he said. “I can’t picture that it’d be anything less than positive.”

Johnson said that his company was likely to reconsider cutting health insurance benefits for the families of employees, a recent move necessitated by rising premium costs.

“Depending how this tax things impacts us, if it frees up enough cash we might be able to not cut that benefit,” he said.

Republicans have also suggested that the corporate tax cuts will benefit workers by stimulating economic growth, which will in turn enable companies to raise wages and hire more employees.

American companies already hold nearly $2.4 trillion in cash and due to current interest rates, they can borrow at historically low cost. Many economists say that at least when it comes to large corporations, if they wanted to be spending more they already would.

For smaller businesses, though, lower taxes could enable expansion — or at least more expansion than is currently planned.

1890 Inc., a clothing store and screen-printer in Casper, recently purchased a downtown building that will allow more space than its current, leased location. Owner Scott Cotton said that he was still reviewing the tax plan with the company’s accountants, but that meaningful savings would help his business.

Pass-through companies, often small businesses, are receiving different tax benefits than corporations because earnings are taxed as the personal income of their owners. The tax bill will allow owners to deduct about 20 percent of business income from their taxes.

“If that’s around the number we’re looking at that’s a gigantic leap for us just in terms of capital investment,” Cotton said. The recently acquired building will require renovation and lots of new equipment.

“If we’re saving that much we could be able to hire new people as well,” Cotton added. “It could be a great thing all around.”

‘A net benefit’

File, Star-Tribune  

Destiny Wood makes milk shakes at Casper's Johnny J’s Diner in 2012. Owner John Johnson said that Johnson Restaurant Group, which owns 10 establishments across Wyoming, might be able to roll back cuts to employee benefits if it saves enough from the tax cut.

As for whether workers across Wyoming can expect to see significantly higher wages as a result of the tax cuts for businesses, economists and business owners say that is less clear.

Dave Cooper, an economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Center, said in an interview earlier this year that companies generally don’t pay employees when they make more money. Because corporations are competing with one another, they will generally pay as little as possible within their industry.

Wages rise, Cooper said, as a result of increased minimum wages or when unemployment drops to the point that companies are forced to pay more to attract any workers at all.

“That’s really the whole ballgame,” Cooper said. “If you can get the unemployment rate really low, raise the minimum wage or make it easier for workers to unionize.”

Wyoming’s labor market has already significantly contracted since the start of the energy industry downturn in 2015. The state’s workforce fell 3 percent year-over-year in October according to Wyoming’s Economic Analysis Division and unemployment is at about 4 percent, a rate in line with historical lows.

But most of the high-paying jobs created by the energy industry have yet to return, and many residents who did not leave the state following the bust have taken jobs in lower-paying sectors, such as retail or hospitality.

Lance Kleiderlein, president of Advanced Wear Coatings in Gillette, suggested that tax cuts alone are unlikely to reverse that trend.

Advanced Wear does various types of manufacturing and offers “exotic coatings” for metal parts, a field of work tied closely to the fortunes of the Johnson County coal industry. Kleiderlein said that he would expand the company if the energy industry recovers. But otherwise he may use the tax savings to cover existing costs, such as outstanding debt.

“If there wasn’t a pressing need (to expand), sure I’d pay some stuff off,” he said.

Kleiderlein said that if tax cuts stimulate overall economic growth that expansion will likely “manifest itself through energy at some point,” increasing demand for coal and creating more customers for Advanced Wear.

“I would imagine we’re probably going to see more benefit from that than a direct impact in our pocket,” he said of the tax plan. “I think it’s a net benefit but I don’t think its a direct benefit.”

Win for the wealthy

Josh Galemore, Star-Tribune 

Cache Street in downtown Jackson this summer. The Republican plan will send 42 percent of personal income tax cuts to the wealthiest 1 percent of Wyomingites, less than 3,000 people.

Most Wyoming taxpayers will pay less in taxes under the plan. But the wealthiest 20 percent will, on average, receive cuts ranging from 2.3 to 4.8 percent while middle-class families and individuals will see cuts ranging from less than 1 percent to 1.7 percent, according to ITEP.

Ten Wyoming families would benefit from a rollback of the federal estate tax, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

A more optimistic analysis by the Tax Foundation, a think tank that has been cited by Barrasso, takes into account both the personal income cuts and what the organization expects to be the economic growth spurred by the business tax cuts.

The Tax Foundation estimate says the plan will create 658 jobs in Wyoming and raise the annual after-tax income of a “middle-income family” by $636.

Those numbers are a dramatic reduction from job and income estimates released by the Tax Foundation in November that found the Senate’s version of the tax plan creating 1,800 jobs and raising incomes by $2,500 for middle-income families, numbers that Barrasso has cited in the past.

ITEP, which is more liberal than the Tax Foundation, found that while average tax savings for Wyoming households is around $2,500, most of those savings will go to the top 20 percent of earners, who will save between $3,100 and $108,000. ITEP’s analysis also found the following:

  • Wyomingites making around $15,000 would save about $60 per year;
  • those making around $35,000 would save about $300;
  • those making around $60,000 would save about $900.

Tax Foundation spokesman John Buhl said the group’s estimate of the economic impact of the final version of the tax plan was less optimistic due largely to the fact that those personal income tax cuts will expire in 10 years. The corporate tax cuts are permanent.

“Over the ten-year window, those temporary cuts do create some dynamic revenue, but in that same time period, they do not permanently increase long-run GDP, when factoring in the expiration,” Buhl said in an email.

The tax plan will also change how income tax brackets are structured and how the IRS accounts for inflation, meaning that if the cuts are allowed to expire as scheduled, in 2027 all but the richest Wyomingites will be paying more than they do today.

The poorest residents will pay between $220 and $270 more than today while the wealthiest 5 percent of earners, with incomes ranging from $468,000 per year to over $2 million, will continue to see savings of $400 to over $14,000 per year, according to ITEP estimates.

Health care concerns

File, Star-Tribune  

Health insurance navigators speak with school administrators two years ago the Wyoming School Board Association’s annual conference in Casper. The Republican tax plan repeals the penalty for failing to purchase health insurance, leading some to worry that premiums could rise in Wyoming.

The tax plan also repeals the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that all individuals purchase health insurance. Removing the penalty imposed on those who do not purchase insurance — disproportionately impacts individuals that make less than $50,000 in Wyoming, according to Enzi’s office — will mean a loss of revenue for the federal government. But the mandate repeal offers a net savings because fewer people will choose to purchase insurance that comes with hefty subsidies.

The impact of the mandate repeal is hard to gauge because it is unclear how many people began purchasing health insurance after the Affordable Care Act was passed because of the subsidies it offered or because they were required to.

“I have not seen any models that break that out,” said Denise Burke, an analyst at the Wyoming Department of Insurance. “I wish we had a better way to predict that but we simply don’t.”

Nonetheless, some groups have tried. The liberal Center for American Progress estimated that the repeal would lead to 22,000 Wyomingites dropping out of the health insurance exchange and going without insurance by 2025. That number is almost equal to the total number of people enrolled in the exchange currently, around 24,000.

“That really concerns us,” Wyoming Hospital Association president Eric Boley said of the mandate repeal. “We really think it will destabilize the insurance market in our state even further.”

But Burke thinks reports of the healthcare exchange demise are greatly exaggerated in part because, for the moment, the federal government is still offering generous subsidies for those who do choose to purchase insurance.

“Some of the media is reporting that the Affordable Care Act has just been gutted,” Burke said. “Well no, it hasn’t ... as long as the (subsidies) continue I think we’ll continue to see numbers that are very similar.”

The risk of repealing the mandate is that healthy individuals who pay for insurance but don’t use it very often will drop out, leaving only those often older or sick individuals who need frequent medical care.

“If you have fewer healthy people and more sick people costs go up and it could have an impact on premiums,” said Wendy Curran of Wyoming Blue Cross Blue Shield, the only insurer on the state’s health care exchange.

The Center for American Progress model also predicted that Wyoming families would see premiums increase an average of $3,460 in 2019, the largest increase in the nation.

Curran said she was skeptical that anyone could accurately predict how many people will enroll in future years or what premium increases will be.

But she acknowledged that fewer healthy individuals are likely to enroll and that by repealing the mandate without removing the requirement that insurers enroll people with preexisting conditions, people could just wait until they get sick or have an accident before signing up.

“With the mandate there was at least some encouragement that it was appropriate to carry insurance all the time,” Curran said. “This will mean that when you need it you can buy and you won’t have to have it the rest of the time.”

Other fears

Josh Galemore, Star-Tribune 

Trucks are loaded with dirt, rock, and other debris to move in Antelope Mine outside of of Wright on Thursday. If the Republican tax plan triggers sequestration, Wyoming could receive less money from federal mineral royalties.

In addition to the direct changes made by the plan to both taxes and healthcare, other ancillary provisions of the law are expected by some to have major ripple effects.

The plan caps the amount of state and local taxes that individuals can deduct from their federal returns at $10,000. As a low-tax state, Wyoming taxpayers will not be as severely impacted by this change as states with high income and property taxes. But the National Education Association nonetheless estimates that pressure from Wyoming residents who would no longer be able to deduct as much of their state and local property taxes would jeopardize $8.3 million per year in statewide education funding and put 82 teacher jobs at risk.

A federal sequestration law from 2010, known as the “Pay-As-You-Go Act,” requires mandatory and automatic cuts to various government programs if a new law increases the deficit. Because the GOP tax plan will add $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years, automatic cuts to programs like Medicare and Medicaid are expected to be triggered.

The Center for American Progress found that would translate to a $36 million reduction in Medicare payments to Wyoming health care providers.

If sequestration does take place, Boley, with the hospital group, said that could hit an already battered health sector in Wyoming.

“We’re hopeful it doesn’t come to that,” he said. “I’ve heard to expect it and I’ve heard not to expect it so it’s a tough situation.”

Boley said he is also concerned that because of the increased deficit created by the tax law, Republicans in Congress may turn to actively cutting Medicare and Medicaid to pay for tax cuts.

If the sequestration cuts are implemented, Wyoming would also be liable to lose a portion of the more than $664 million in federal royalty payments it received last year, dollars that are crucial to funding public services around the state.

Enzi and Cheney’s offices told the Star-Tribune earlier this year that it expects those cuts to be waived, something that Congress can vote to do.

Delegation confident

Josh Galemore, Star-Tribune  

Sen. Mike Enzi answers a question during an event at the Casper Events Center this summer. Enzi celebrated passage of the GOP tax plan last week.

Some Republican leaders are concerned about political fallout from the tax plan, especially during next year’s midterm elections, when typically a president’s party loses seats in Congress. That’s all the more true for presidents whose approval ratings dip below 50 percent, and Trump’s have never been that high.

Additionally, the tax law that they see as the GOP’s top talking point appears to be unpopular. Only about one in three voters have supported the legislation in recent days, according to several polls. About half of Americans believe the plan will hurt their personal finances. And two out of three voters say the wealthy will get the most benefits, according to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll released last week.

But in Wyoming, where Republicans are unlikely to lose any federal seats, the congressional delegation has been unrelentingly upbeat about the tax plan.

Enzi posted a long stream of messages on Twitter on Thursday highlighting lesser-known provisions of the tax bill including the ability to deduct medical expenses that exceed one’s income and the ability for employers to write-off the cost of wages for employees who take family medical leave.

“The #TaxReform bill is truly about making a better future for folks in Wyoming and across the country,” Enzi wrote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


Bohren