Important COVID-19 Relief Information for Johnson & Sheridan County Businesses

UPDATE: May 20, 2020 – See the below and the full PDF from the Wyoming Business Council:

“To prepare in the meantime for any of the programs, business owners can gather the following documents now: 
        . A Certificate of Good Standing from the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office   
        . A W-9 Form from the State Auditor’s office. Please ensure the business or personal name; the Employer Identification Number or Social Security number; and the business classification you enter on the form match your latest tax return. 
Business owners are also encouraged to register for Business Council media releases to keep up on the latest information on all three programs. Updates will also be posted on the agency’s Facebook and Twitter channels. “

Dear Johnson/Sheridan County Business Proprietor:

Attached is a PDF package I have prepared from the recent special session of the Wyoming Legislature, aimed primarily at relief for business owners.

A couple of key points:

  • Lawsuit immunity from Covid-19 claims was passed.  See SF 1001 in the packet.  Covid-19 illness in the workplace is made a compensable injury, the funds come from the federal government and does NOT count against your Worker Comp experience rating.  For non-workforce potential Covid-19 claims (for example, a customer sues saying they got Covid-19 in your business place) see SF 1001 which creates a “good faith” immunity for any business immunity.  Perfect? No, but it is the best I could get and is still pretty good.
  • The monetary relief program is for GRANTS, not loans.  See SF 1004.
    • The program will be administered through the Wyoming Business Council in Cheyenne
    • The Application form has not yet been created BUT I think it prudent to start putting together the materials you think will help demonstrate the harm your business suffered.  A very rough draft of an application for is enclosed – no guarantee the final form will look like this.
    • Priority goes to those who did not or were not able to get PPP loans.
    • The relief is aimed at those businesses ordered to close AND those businesses that weren’t ordered to close but were affected by the crisis.

Please check back for updates as more information is obtained.  Also, if you have feedback on how the program is working – or not – please email me at Dave.Kinskey@WyoLeg.gov.  I can then work to try to fix any snafus.

Working together we can come back from this adversity.  I firmly believe our best days yet lie ahead.

Regards,

Dave Kinskey

Wyoming Covid-19 Relief Packet


May 20th Press Release – Business Council creating business relief grant programs

Bad Time to Build a Pool

The 20-day legislative session ended with a budget for operation of state government, including schools and colleges.  However, no agreement could be reached on a construction budget, and we adjourned without an appropriation bill for state construction.  That saves, for now, $162 million.

It was a tough budget session.  Our state’s dependence on the energy industry for jobs and tax revenue is well known. Direct taxes on coal, oil and gas account for over half the state’s revenue.

The demand for coal has plummeted.  Wyoming’s coal production in the Powder River Basin has declined by over 20% in this decade and taxes paid on coal have fallen by a like amount.

Fracking has unleashed a torrent of cheap natural gas.  That is great for the US and world economies, but the low prices handicap Wyoming producers and state tax collections.

The Saudis and the Russians are in an oil price and production war which has sent prices, and production taxes, plummeting.

As the Legislature convened the coronavirus epidemic was just beginning.  In the last week of the session, the stock market plunged on virus-related fears.  A quarter of the state’s revenue derives from its stock portfolio.  Impaired Wall Street earnings further reduced the state’s anticipated revenues.

The only budget seemingly immune from pressure to reduce is K-12 education.  In fact, the automatic escalators in the K-12 funding formula, imposed under Supreme Court dictate, drove education spending $133 million higher for this budget.  This rate of spending increase outstrips the inflation rate.  How much of that reaches teachers and classroom instruction – or gets spent elsewhere – is a matter of concern.

Our biennial budget deficit rapidly approaches a half billion dollars, with the difference made up from our rapidly dwindling savings.

The failed budget for state construction included necessary maintenance on state government and college buildings as well as new construction.  Three proposed University of Wyoming projects could not be agreed upon: a new pool, reconstruction of the football stadium and an expansion of the Law School.

The proponents of same insisted on the inclusion of these projects in any construction budget.  The opponents, meaning an overwhelming majority of the Senate, felt it imprudent to spend tens of millions of dollars on this kind of construction during a budget collapse.

As a UW alum, I support the institution, but not for this kind of expenditure in this economic environment.

The negotiations stalled, with the UW project proponents firm in their insistence on including funding for the pool, stadium and law school.  On the last day of the session, we adjourned without a construction budget.  The next legislative session convenes in January of 2021 for a 40-day session.  We will see then how the economy, and our revenues, shake out.

Meanwhile, stay healthy.Dave Kinskey represents Wyoming Senate District 22 which consists of Johnson County and eastern Sheridan County. A businessperson and former Mayor of Sheridan, he can be reached during the legislative session at Dave.Kinskey@WyoLeg.gov

The Badge of The Grim Reaper

One of my Senate colleagues recently sported an unfamiliar lapel pin: the profile of the Grim Reaper, complete with a scythe. The Grim Reaper is an old symbol of death, and he uses the sickle to harvest the souls of the living.

I instantly knew the meaning of the lapel pin. In a recent media interview, the House leader referred to his side of the Legislature as “the golden goose” and the Senate as the Grim Reaper. He was commenting on the difference between the House and Senate versions of the state budget. In recent years, the Senate has been the more fiscally conservative branch of the state government. The House has spent more, often approving tax hikes as well.

When he read the House leader’s comments, my Senate colleagues took it upon himself to track down a firm that made, of all things, Grim Reaper lapel pins. He ordered a bag of them and distributed them freely to members of the Senate.

I accepted one and promptly put it on my coat. It is kind of funny, but I must admit I had second thoughts. It symbolizes division—us versus them. There’s enough of that in the United States today. It’s not as deep or acrimonious in Wyoming as it is in Washington, but we must be careful to avoid going down that path.

Several years ago, it was my honor to meet the late Carl Venne, at that time the Chairman of the Crow Nation.

“We must build bridges, not burn them,” he said.

We have some hard times ahead of us in Wyoming. Our wealth and jobs have often come from the coal, oil and gas industries. They’ve boomed and busted over the years, and are currently in a bust. This time, the bust may be worse than ever, perhaps even permanent. The War on Carbon energy continues unabated, and we bear the consequences in the Cowboy State.

I firmly believe that our best days are ahead. It will be a struggle, and there will be sacrifices. But to get to the best days, we must be careful to build, not burn, bridges.

The Grim Reaper lapel pin has been consigned to a dresser drawer. It remains a humorous reminder of a brief dustup in the Legislature. For now, though, the focus will be in setting aside divides and finding ways to work together for Wyoming’s future.

Dave Kinskey represents Wyoming Senate District 22 which consists of Johnson County and eastern Sheridan County. A businessperson and former Mayor of Sheridan, he can be reached during the legislative session at Dave.Kinskey@WyoLeg.gov.

Senator Kinskey welcomes Captain Icanberry to capitol; recommends military gun permit extension.

Even in a tough budget year, there are a few bright moments. One such was a visit to the Capitol by the Icanberry family of Kaycee.

Captain Matt Icanberry has served more than 26 months overseas in a combat zone. His deployments include southeast Asia, the Middle East, Iraq and Kuwait. Most recently, he served as a Training/Exercise Specialist for US Army Europe in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Before going full time with the military, he taught science for 15 years at Kaycee High School.

During his most recent overseas deployment his concealed carry weapon permit expired. Under Wyoming law, an expired permit cannot be renewed. Rather, the holder must go through the entire application process over again, as though they were applying for the first time. That includes fingerprinting, proof of firearms training or military experience, a criminal background check—and a fee.

Renewal while deployed overseas can be done, but, under our laws, it’s more of a hassle than it should be. Matt contacted me with some helpful suggestions about what might be done for future overseas military faced with the same situation.

My first point of contact was Senator Brian Boner of Douglas.  Brian served in the military and is knowledgeable on military matters — and is a genuinely helpful guy. Working with a staff attorney in the legislative service office, and with advice from the office of Major General Gregory Porter, the Adjutant General of the Wyoming National Guard, we crafted Senate File 105, “Concealed Weapons Permit Renewal-Military Duty.”

The bill delays the expiration of a concealed carry permit for active duty military and their spouses while overseas until six months after their return stateside.

The bill received bipartisan sponsorship in the Senate and the House and was introduced and referred for hearing to the Senate Committee for Transportation, Highways & Military Affairs.

I contacted Matt to see if he might be able to share with the Committee his experience and the reason for the bill. He told me his two teenage daughters, Greere and Gwendolyn, would be in Cheyenne with a youth group learning about the legislative process. The Committee Chairman agreed to schedule the hearing on a day when all three could be present.

To make the reunion complete, Matt’s wife Amy and their son Grady drove to the capital from Kaycee.

From the Senate gallery, the family observed a bit of the debate on the state budget. At an appropriate time, from the Senate floor, I had the honor of introducing them, and the family received a rousing standing ovation from the entire Senate. On break, I was able to visit with the entire family. All three kids are precocious, and Matt and Amy are good people.

Later that day Matt testified about Senate File 105 to the Committee, which made a unanimous “Do Pass” recommendation to the entire Senate.

Seeing the Icanberry family in Cheyenne was a nice high point to an otherwise arduous week. I’m grateful for a state full of active, engaged citizens who are interested in good legislation and the future of our great State of Wyoming.

Dave Kinskey represents Wyoming Senate District 22 which consists of Johnson County and eastern Sheridan County. A businessperson and former Mayor of Sheridan, he can be reached during the legislative session at Dave.Kinskey@WyoLeg.gov.

Learning the Ropes

“The Legislature does its work by committee,” observed the late John Patton, a former local state legislator.

John passed away four years ago. He’d served in the Legislature for a decade in the 60s and 70s, and resumed his service in 2009. He passed away at the age of 84 while serving in the 2105 legislative session.

I never fully appreciated what John meant until I began to serve in the Legislature. The state of Wyoming budgets on a two-year cycle and spends $9.3 billion during that time in state and federal funds. That is $16,000 for every man, woman and child in the state, every two years, or $8,000 per year.

Government is big business, even in conservative Wyoming. It’s far bigger than it should be.  That size is a problem—not just for Wyoming, but for our nation.

The scope of government is such that legislating requires the work to be divvied up.  The Legislature has 10 standing committees: Judiciary; Appropriations; Revenue; Education; Agriculture; State and Public Lands & Water Resources; Travel, Recreation, Wildlife & Cultural Resources; Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions; Transportation, Highways & Military Affairs; Minerals, Business & Economic Development; and, Labor, Health & Social Services.

Thus, “the Legislature does its work by committee.”

Each committee has five to seven members, each of whom try to develop expertise in the committee’s subject area. During the legislative session, all bills are assigned to the relevant committee for study, and committees recommend to the House or the Senate whether to pass or amend a bill.

Committees do not offer the final word, but a place to start. Legislators that serve multiple terms typically will rotate service among committees, giving them a broader understanding of the issues facing Wyoming.

I was initially appointed to the Wyoming Senate to serve the unexpired term of John Schiffer.  John passed away from cancer, and had served over two decades in the Legislature representing Johnson and Sheridan counties. The list of committees on which he served or chaired is remarkable.

John was described to me by the late Tom Kinnison, one of his peers, as “the most effective legislator I ever served with.” High praise indeed, given that Tom himself was an accomplished legislator.

After he’d died, John was given an award posthumously recognizing his service. His wife, Nancy, accepted it on his behalf and gave an insightful talk about how he’d become so effective.  She described years of work and ceaseless learning. She gave hope to every new legislator in attendance that, with dedication and persistence, they too might develop a similar mastery.

I contacted Nancy a month or so after John’s passing to see if John had any files I could review to better prepare myself for my first legislative session. She told me, “What you need, he took with him.”

I now understand more fully what she meant. The current legislative session is my fifth. Properly representing Johnson and Sheridan counties demands my best efforts. I have learned much along the way, but there is always more to learn.

Dave Kinskey represents Wyoming Senate District 22 which consists of Johnson County and eastern Sheridan County. A businessperson and former Mayor of Sheridan, he can be reached during the legislative session at Dave.Kinskey@WyoLeg.gov.

My License Plate Saved My Life

Dave Kinskey, R-Wyoming Senate

The State of Wyoming’s use of the bucking horse and rider as a symbol for the Cowboy State dates to at least 1918. The state obtained trademark protection for the symbol in 1936.  That same year, it was first incorporated in the Wyoming vehicle license plate as a means of combating counterfeit plates.

The bucking horse has been a feature of Wyoming plates ever since and is recognized throughout the country. That is fortunate for Donna and me, as the readily recognized symbol has, I am convinced, saved our lives—not once, but twice. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it certainly saved us from two potentially dangerous situations.

In the 1970s, Donna and I drove across the United States to Boston. It was a time of high tension because a federal judge had ordered forced busing to integrate the schools of African American, Italian and Irish students across divided neighborhoods.

She and I knew none of that. We pulled into the largest city we’d ever been in late one Saturday night. The streets of Boston are notoriously twisted. In an age before navigation apps, we were left to figure it out the old-fashioned way: with a dim car ceiling light and a paper atlas.

Not quite confident we had it right, we forged ahead through city streets until the lights and siren of a police car surprised us. We pulled over. A policeman approached. In a thick Boston accent, he said, “You’re lost!” He didn’t ask for my license or registration, I suppose because I’d not committed a traffic offense other than being lost.

“How do you know I’m lost?” I asked.

“Because of the bucking bronco on your license plate,” he replied. “If you knew where you were going, you wouldn’t be going where you are going. Now flip a U turn and go the other way.”

“Thank you,” I said, “but, there is a ‘No U turn’ sign right there.”

“Aww, it’s Boston, nobody pays attention to those signs,” the police officer said. “Now, just flip around and go the other way.”

A few years later, I was a summer intern for the late Sen. Malcolm Wallop in Washington, D.C.  I’d worked late and it was well after sunset. I was driving, not entirely sure I was on the right track, but operating on the “try this street and look for a familiar landmark” method of quasi-navigation.

Again, police lights and siren. I pulled over, digging for my license and registration. Neither was of interest to the officer.

“Sir, you are lost. You need to turn around and go the other way.”

Again, I asked how he knew I was lost. It was because of the readily recognizable bucking bronc and cowboy on my license plate—and the direction I was headed. I thanked him.

He said, “No problem, sir, I’m just saving myself a lot of paperwork.”

In Wyoming, the bucking horse and rider represents our untamable spirit, our willingness to take life head-on. We are untamable in our wide-open spaces, but in the city, that same bucking horse can be an indicator that we are far from home.

Dave Kinskey represents Wyoming Senate District 22 which consists of Johnson County and eastern Sheridan county.  A businessperson and former Mayor of Sheridan, Kinskey can be reached at Dave.Kinskey@WyoLeg.gov or cell 751-6428.

Chinese Stocks and Wyoming Wool

What does the Chinese stock market have to do with the success of Wyoming sheep ranchers?  Quite a bit, as I learned at the recent mid-year meeting of the Wyoming Wool Growers Association.

Speaker Larry Prager of Center of the Nation Wool spelled out the China-Wyoming wool connection.  The United States has enough capacity to process 12 to 15 million pounds of wool each year. The U.S. produces about double that amount annually.  The half that cannot be processed here is exported. The largest export destination for US wool has been China, followed by India.  With the exception of 2014, China usually accounts for over half of US wool exports.  

China consumes a lot of wool.  It makes the rest into products for re-export abroad.

Australia is a big wool producer with 70% of its production shipped to China. Australia has a weekly wool auction.  This sets the price for wool world-wide.

If the Chinese stock market melt-down slows China’s spending at the wool auction, prices fall and the impact is felt immediately here in the Cowboy State.

Additionally, American wool prices are pegged to the Australian dollar.  The weakening of the Australian dollar, and the strengthening of the U.S. dollar has negatively impacted domestic wool producers.

We do indeed live in a global world economy.

Other panels addressed lamb carcass pricing and the myriad of business risks facing the industry.

All employers face daunting regulatory challenges from the current administration in Washington – few more so than the sheep industry.  Concerns addressed include: grazing allotments, efforts by the federal government to control Wyoming water and land as well as threats from environmental rules.  Migrant work visas, too, are a concern. 

38% of sheep in America are tended by sheepherders from south of our border.  In a rare instance of an immigration policy that works these folks come in on an H2A visa, work for months and then go home for the rest of the year.  Seems like Washington ought to be happy with that one – right?

Not so.  The Obama administration is renewing this visa program only on condition of tripling – – that’s right, tripling – – the required wage.  Not only does that hurt woolgrowers, but it likely will mean the end of employment for these itinerant shepherds.

Hopefully, we’ll soon see a change in Administration that will reverse this atmosphere of hostility toward employers, agriculture and the West.

The Woolgrowers invited me to recognize my efforts in the Legislature on behalf of private property rights, and it was my pleasure to spend the day learning much more about this vital segment of Wyoming’s economy.  My many thanks to Amy Hendrickson and the Wyoming Woolgrowers for the opportunity to listen and learn.

Dave Kinskey represents Wyoming Senate District 22, consisting of Johnson County and eastern Sheridan County.  A businessperson, Kinskey is the former Mayor of Sheridan.  He can be reached at Dave.Kinskey@WyoLeg.gov or by phone at 307-751-6428.

Taxing and Spending in Cheyenne

Quite a bit of email coming in about a proposed corporate income tax.  There is a bill to enable a corporate income tax.  It is limited to retail stores and intended to hit the “big box” retailers that have done so much damage to Main Street stores.

Nonetheless, it is an income tax all the same, something to which I – and many others – are adamantly opposed.

Why?  First, if it passes, it may be initially only on big box retailers, but can it only be a matter of time before bills are introduced to extend it to multiple other businesses?

Second, it may be initially only for corporations, but, again, wouldn’t it soon be conceivable to apply it to individuals as well?

Third, typically such taxes start out as targeting only “the rich.”  The federal income tax started as a 1% tax that “only the rich will pay.”  Generation by generation the “tax the wealthy” drumbeat went on, and the tax went up.  Today, everybody is subject to the income tax.  Unless you are poor, then it turns into a tax refund, at the expense of hard-working men and women everywhere, like you.  What happens is before long “the rich” comes to mean anybody with a job!

Fourth, government consumes every dollar available.  It grows in proportion to revenue.  Income taxes are a powerful revenue raiser.  And, an equally powerful grower of the size of government.  We need less – not more – government in America.

Fifth, raising taxes, income taxes or otherwise, feeds a false narrative that Cheyenne has done enough to rein in spending.  That is untrue.  While there were cuts during the downturn of 2008-09 – and significant cuts at that – there is still way too much waste, inefficiency and spending.

My vote is “No” to new taxes and tax hikes.  If there comes a day when it appears we’ve throttled back on spending, and there is a hue and cry from the folks I represent that Wyoming needs more spending and more taxes, I may reconsider. But, we are a long way from that day.

In other important matters, as I write, the bill to construct a veterans skilled nursing facility at the Veterans Home in Buffalo is coming up for consideration.  Vying for consideration are Casper and Sheridan.  I am an advocate for location in Buffalo.

The State of Wyoming operates five health care facilities – that State Hospital in Evanston, the Life Resource Center in Lander, the Pioneer Home in Thermopolis, the Retirement Center in Basin and the Veterans Home in Buffalo, formerly known as “The Soldiers and Sailors Home.”  It provides assisted living care to veterans from across Wyoming.  The proposal would add a skilled nursing component there.

A task force formed by the State in 2014 determined that the proper role of the government in health care facilities is to operate as a safety net, a provider of last resort.  This way, the State would not compete with private enterprise.


For over a century, the role of the Veterans Home has been precisely that, to first serve those who, due to circumstance or history, are unable to find a proper place closer to home. 

In 2016 the Legislature enacted a bill that clearly indicated that when funds became available, a veterans skilled nursing home was to be build on the Veterans Home campus.

Nonetheless, legislators for Casper and Sheridan will jockey for location in their communities.  As for me, I represent both Buffalo and Sheridan.  But, the veterans at the Veterans Home has clearly indicated their preference to stay where they are when they need a higher level of care, rather than relocate to a different community.

In the end, I feel we must respect the wishes of those most affected by the decision

Dave Kinskey represents Wyoming Senate District 22 which consists of Johnson County and eastern Sheridan county.  A businessperson and former Mayor of Sheridan, Kinskey can be reached at Dave.Kinskey@WyoLeg.gov or cell 751-6428.

Great News for Jobs

The last week has brought great news for all who have yearned for a more robust local economy.

JOCO First, the economic development arm of Kaycee, Buffalo, and Johnson County, scored $1 million in Wyoming Business Council funding toward the cost of developing a shovel-ready business park.

They’d initially been denied, but persistence pays off. Mayor Mike Johnson and Commission Chair Bill Novotny led a delegation to Cheyenne to plead the case for reconsideration. It worked. They won the first installment on the cost of the project

Days later, Wyoming leaders announced that a titan of the outdoor industry – Weatherby – will establish a light manufacturing operation in Sheridan’s High-Tech Business Park. The park was built several years ago by the City of Sheridan, with assistance from the Business Council. The purpose was to provide shovel-ready sites for precisely these kinds of business relocations.

Also, of assistance was SEEDA – the Sheridan Economic and Educational Development Authority. SEEDA, a collaboration between the City of Sheridan and Sheridan College, was able to make a substantial financial contribution to the project, creating the vehicle for a $12 million loan from the State Loan and Investment Board for a 100,000 square foot light manufacturing facility.

The two developments are related. The Weatherby project lends a sense of urgency to the efforts of JOCO First. JOCO First was able to argue that Buffalo, too, needed a shovel-ready business park, and needed it sooner rather than later. Perhaps on the coattails of the Weatherby project, the entire region will benefit through job creation or business relocation in the area.

In many ways, Johnson and Sheridan counties share an employee and business base. Folks in Buffalo commute to jobs in Sheridan, and vice versa. Many people from Dayton and Ranchester and Clearmont and Kaycee travel to bigger communities for work. Some in Sheridan prefer to live in Buffalo, and others prefer Northeast Wyoming’s more rural settings. Economists regard the two counties as one labor market, not two.

Labor market studies show that the interstate between the communities grows shorter every day. There is one other finding that is important: The number of underemployed people far exceed the number of unemployed. Likewise, many people have withdrawn from the labor force due to a lack of work equal to their skills and training.

Collectively, this creates a deep pool of talent for the right kinds of jobs.

Light manufacturing is the holy grail of economic development. We have agriculture, energy, and tourism, and we need to promote and nurture them. As Dad says, “Don’t forget to dance with the gal that brung ya.”

But a fourth industry will help to stabilize the ups and downs in other sectors. Manufacturing is America’s strength, and is a good fit for rural Wyoming. There are no smokestacks – just good, steady jobs.

This industry segment is small but growing. Our community college and our high schools are critical to providing the training employers need to seriously consider growing in our area.

Hats off to all the dedicated people in Sheridan and Johnson counties – and in Cheyenne – who drove these efforts to fruition. They are helping to build a better future for generations to follow.

Dave Kinskey represents Wyoming Senate District 22 which consists of Johnson County and eastern Sheridan county.  A businessperson and former Mayor of Sheridan, Kinskey can be reached at Dave.Kinskey@WyoLeg.gov or cell 751-6428.