On Monday, September 30, 2013, three state legislators were on-hand at the Lincoln Civic Association meeting, held at the Lincoln Community Center, to respond to resident concerns about the local area. Representatives Harvey Kenton and Dave Wilson, as well as Senator Gary Simpson, spoke to the group about what they felt were big issues facing the Milford and Lincoln areas.
“One of the biggest projects I get calls about is the overpass at the Route 30 and Route 1 intersection, which seems to be progressing ahead of schedule,” said Representative Kenton. “We fully believe that the new road will be open in early spring, possibly as early as February. I know that some of us are still getting complaints from residents who live just a little bit north of there who say the desparately need an overpass there, and we are doing all we can to get DelDOT to see the need to push that project forward as well. The Route 30 intersection needed completion because twelve people had died at that intersection in a short period of time.” Representative Kenton explained that project decisions were not up to the legislators, but were prioritized by DelDOT.
In addition to the overpass at Route 30, Representative Kenton said that the state hoped to have the breaches filled in Prime Hook by fall of 2014, and that the state was planning to add an additional road into and out of the area to help eliminate the stranding of residents when strong storms affect the area. However, Representative Kenton said that his biggest focus in the upcoming session was education.
“Education is taking about one-third of the state budget and although we need to provide an excellent education for our children, at some point we need to look at the feasibility of one state agency having such an exceedingly high budget,” Representative Kenton said. “There are over 500 administrators at the Department of Education making more than $100,000 per year, and that is simply not acceptable. Those salaries need to go toward educating our students, not paying someone to sit in an office in Dover.”
Will Fox asked the legislators about national ratings that have Delaware listed as 48th in education, down from the 43rd position they had a few years previously. Mr. Fox did not offer information on where he found that statistic, or what organization created the ranking. Representative Kenton said that he talked to Mark Murphy, Delaware Secretary of Education, who explained that there are many reasons why the state ranked so low, and some of it has to do with how the statistics were compiled.
“Delaware is one of just a few states that offers the SAT tests to every eleventh grade student,” Representative Kenton said. “The majority of states hand-pick those student who are attending college, so their scores on those types of tests are higher. Kids who don’t plan to go on to college don’t care about the SAT, and may do worse than students who plan to use the results to get into the college of their choice, and this could reflect badly on Delaware in national polls.”
Legislators also discussed the federal government shut down, stating that there would be some ramifications for Delaware. The three legislators assured those in attendance that they did not anticipate a similar incident occurring in Delaware as the legislators in Dover “tend to get along.”
“We may not always agree, but we work together to do the people’s work,” said Representative Wilson. One of the biggest concerns Representative Wilson had regarding the government shut down was reports that criminal background checks for gun purchases would not be available.
“I understand that the government needs staff to perform these background checks, and that they are necessary, but we in Delaware also have a constitutional right to bear arms, and not providing the staff to perform them at the federal level is a violation of our citizen’s constitutional right,” Representative Wilson said. Senator Gary Simpson said that his primary focus in the upcoming session was to get the budget in shape.
“The governor came to us two weeks before the end of the session, calling for tax increases,” Senator Simpson said. “For the record, all three of us voted against those increases. Those last-minute requests came right on the heels of other tax increases that were supposed to end last year being made permanent.” Another issue that Senator Simpson feels needs to be addressed is prevailing wage.
“Prevailing wage is costing Delawareans an extra 20 percent on public works projects,” Senator Simpson explained. “I prefer that the state use market wage, but the Governor is strongly opposed to that. In prevailing wage, a group of contractors submit wage information, and the state takes an average to determine the prevailing wage. What the state should do is get the information throughout the state from a variety of contractors, but in Delaware we only accept information from union labor shops. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not against unions, but remember that there are a lot of unions in New Castle County, which is why the Governor is opposed to changing this policy. In fact, I asked him to simply adjust the methods so that we could put more Delaware citizens to work, and his answer was no.”
The three legislators also said that the economy in Delaware is still not where it should be, and that spending at the state level is still too high.
“We are either spending too much or in the wrong places,” Senator Simpson explained. “We need to start getting serious about the things our state gives away.”