By Terry Rogers
In the early morning hours of July 1, state legislators passed a balanced budget for the state of Delaware. The budget included raises for state workers that will take effect on January 1, a delay that saved the state about $5 million. In a more controversial decision, legislators used $40 million from funds earmarked for road and bridge improvements to balance the budget. Governor Jack Markell had hoped to increase gas tax by ten cents to replace the money removed from the transportation funds, but met with resistance from many legislators.
“From my perspective, it was apparent early on that the Governor would not get his ten cent tax increase on gas or his $45 per year tax increase for his clean water initiative,” said Senator Gary Simpson who represents the Milford area in the state senate. “The public is firmly opposed to both proposals and I was, too. Going forward, the leaders of all four caucuses in the General Assembly agreed to meet during the next several months to see if there are areas of agreement prior to our new session in January.”
Representative Jack Peterman agreed with Senator Simpson regarding the tax increases. Peterman said he was opposed to both the gas tax and the proposed water fee, but that he was disappointed that there was no legislation on either proposal as he felt there were a lot of details regarding how the Clean Water Initiative would be funded.
“As for the gas tax, I and other House Republicans proposed a viable alternative,” Representative Peterman said. “We want to move DelDOT’s $230 million annual operating budget out of the fund used for financing road construction back to the General Fund. Making that transition in manageable increments over a period of seven years would free up more than $1 billion for transportation projects over that time span and about $250 million annually after that. It would not be easy and would require some tough choices at the start of each budget cycle. However, if we made this commitment we would have the capital needed to pay for the Route 1 overpass projects serving the Woods Haven community and the Kent County Regional Sports Complex.”
Representative Harvey Kenton said that Delawareans should be proud that the state lives within its means and must, by law, enact a balanced budget. He felt that Milford area residents would see no reduction in the quality or availability of state services. “In fact, we were modestly able to increase funding for the Grant-in-Aid bill supporting non-profit organizations working to benefit the community,” Representative Kenton said. “The measure contains nearly $205,000 for the Milord Senior Center, $10,000 for the Home of the Brave Foundation, $3,060 for the Friends of the Milford Museum and $4,162 for the Milford Historical Society. Most importantly, the bill included aid vital for the work of the Carlisle Fire Company.”
Senator Simpson also said that Milford residents would benefit the funding provided to Carlisle Fire Company, as well as additional EMS legislation passed in the final hours of the legislative session are also designed to help the local fire service.“The major item accomplished this year in the legislature that effects Milford the most is the transfer of the state-owned Milford Armory building and grounds to the City of Milford,” Senator Simpson said. “This will have a long lasting effect on the city when you think of the multiple uses they might make of the building and the amount of land surrounding them.”
All three legislators believe that raising taxes is not the answer to balance the budget and feel that the state should focus on reducing spending rather than tax increases. “I remain convinced that Delaware does not have a revenue problem, but rather a problem in deciding how to efficiently allocate our spending,” Senator Simpson said.