2019 October
A Better Delaware is a non-partisan public policy and political advocacy organization that supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies and greater transparency and accountability in state government.
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Real Estate Transfer Tax: State’s Way of Transferring its Financial Burden

A 1% increase in Delaware’s real estate transfer tax in 2017 brought the rate to 4%, worrying realtors in the state. The increase placed a burden on both buyers and sellers, who equally split the tax at closing.

Sellers lost dually with this legislation, facing a harder sell and receiving less profit at closing by having to cover the other half of the transfer tax. Buyers lost too, now having to save thousands more to cover the tax alone. As if a down payment on a home wasn’t a big expense already.

So, who won with the 1% increase?

It should come as no surprise to most that Delaware State Government is the sole winner in the deal, with the extra revenue going directly into the General Fund. The measure was enacted to combat the 2017 budget shortfall, to the detriment of realtors and homebuyers.

Bruce Plummer, president of the Delaware Association of Realtors, said “We know for a fact that home ownership builds strong communities,” with “better school systems, better health, higher volunteerism rates and lower crime rates.”

The legislature disregarded Delawareans when making a decision that impacted their ability to move from renting to owning a home—a big step for many. Realtors, businesses, and communities all lost with legislation that halted more homeownership. Those looking to move to the state were given a reason to reconsider.

When it came to the concern over the increase, Plummer asserted, “We’re not just trying to protect the industry, we’re trying to protect the home owner and Delaware’s private property rights.”

So are we. The real issue boils down to when our legislators will fight for these protections as well.

Unfortunately, this is yet another example of the General Assembly putting itself above residents and businesses. Delaware cannot continue to push key industries aside in favor of funding its bloated spending.

JPMorgan Chase announces $4 million investment in collaborative effort to revitalize ‘left behind’ Wilmington neighborhoods

From Delaware Business Now

JPMorgan Chase & Co. announced a $4 million, three-year investment in Equitable Wilmington, a collaborative aimed at promoting growth in Wilmington’s West, East and Northeast neighborhoods.

The collaborative includes Cinnaire Lending Corporation, True Access Capital and NCALL Loan Fund and will use the funds to support affordable housing development, small businesses and community facilities while addressing social determinants of health—including access to healthy foods, and health care facilities—through partnerships with the healthcare sector.

“We’re very proud to make this investment in Wilmington, a community that’s so important to JPMorgan Chase,” said Tom Horne, JPMorgan Chase market director for Delaware. “This city has been making meaningful progress but we know there’s still a lot of work to be done. We want to show up in a big way to help address the challenges and we’re excited about the great work that this collaborative will do.”

“We have worked hard in Delaware to support new affordable housing and small business development, and these investments in Equitable Wilmington will build on progress we’re seeing across our city,” said Gov. John Carney. “This is the kind of collaboration that can create real positive change in Delaware communities, and I want to thank everyone involved for their commitment to the City of Wilmington.”

 

Read more:

https://delawarebusinessnow.com/2019/10/jpmorgan-chase-announces-4-million-investment-in-collaborative-effort-to-revitalize-left-behind-wilmington-neighborhoods/

21 Delaware employees made more than 200K last year — none were the governor

From the News Journal

Twenty-one people who work for Delaware state government made more than $200,000 in 2018, and at least 13 are on track to make a similar amount this year.

Mark Brainard, president of Delaware Technical Community College, tops the list, according to a database of state employee salaries provided by the state Office of Management and Budget.

Brainard, who topped last year’s list, earned $266,540 in 2018. He made a base salary of $245,000 along with $20,585 listed as “other” earnings, according to the state budget office data.

Delaware state employees can make “other” earnings in more than 140 ways, ranging from stipends, health care cost supplements, coaching a school sports teams or serving on the state police scuba diving unit.

Brainard could end up making an even bigger paycheck in 2019, since his salary has been bumped to $249,900 this year. He’s still making less than his predecessor Orlando George, who collected a nearly $371,000 in salary when he retired in 2014.

More than half of the employees who topped the list worked for the health and homeland security departments last year. That includes police, nurses, psychiatrists and forensic examiners. The list also includes a couple of New Castle County school superintendents.

 

Read more:

https://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/politics/2019/10/30/these-delaware-employees-made-more-than-200-k-last-year-none-were-governor/4020677002/

Pharma start-up gets state grant; plans call for hiring up to 49 biotech positions

From Delaware Business Now

Prelude Therapeutics, a privately-held, clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, plans to add up to 49 biotech positions by 2022 and invest $5 million in expanded lab and office space in the Wilmington area.

Prelude conducts research focused on key drivers of cancer cell growth, survival, and resistance. The company has two clinical trials in progress, with more pre-clinical development candidates in the pipeline.

The company is outgrowing its current locations, split between the Delaware Innovation Space (located on the site of the former DuPont Experimental Station) in Wilmington and nearby overflow office space.

The Delaware Council on Development Finance (CDF) recently approved Prelude for a Performance Grant of $684,090 and a Capital Expenditure grant of $150,000 for a total of up to $834,090. Both would come from the Delaware Strategic Fund and both are contingent on Prelude meeting its hiring goals.

The Delaware Development Partnership assisted Prelude.

With the additional jobs, Prelude’s team will expand to a projected total of 81 employees by 2022. The new positions include professional scientists and skilled associates and will add approximately $5.5 million to its annual payroll.

Prelude began operations in 2016 with a handful of employees and has now grown to 32 people. The company has raised $95 million in funding for its work.

 

Read more:

https://delawarebusinessnow.com/2019/10/pharma-start-up-gets-state-grant-plans-call-for-hiring-up-to-49-biotech-positions/

Gov. Carney’s office won’t say whether Paradee sister did legal review for DE Turf bill

From the News Journal

Gov. John Carney’s office would not comment Monday whether Jacqueline Mette, deputy legal counsel to the governor and Sen. Trey Paradee’s sister, conducted the legal review for her brother’s controversial DE Turf hotel tax bill.

Mette serves on Carney’s four-person legal team that reviews all bills passed by the General Assembly before the governor considers them.

The hotel tax bill, should Kent County officials approve it, could benefit a proposed development championed by John Paradee, brother of Trey Paradee and Mette.

John Paradee also sits on the board of DE Turf, a private sports complex near Frederica that would receive all of the tax revenue, estimated to be about $1 million a year.

Trey Paradee, a Dover-area state senator, sponsored the bill, which was pushed through the Legislature during its final hours in June.

More than half of legislators who voted in favor of the bill and responded to Delaware Online/The News Journal said they would have reconsidered their yes vote had they known of the potential conflict. Many others said they would have pressed for more details.

 

Read more:

https://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/politics/2019/10/28/gov-carneys-office-wont-say-whether-paradee-sister-did-legal-review-de-turf-bill/2483634001/

Transparency and Accountability: the “Delaware Way” can do Better

Delaware state government tends to minimize or even diminish the role of the citizen in decision-making, to the detriment of its constituency. Without transparency and accountability to influence better decisions, our officials are free to pass legislation to their own benefit, instead of that of its people.

The transparency issue with Delaware state government has been clear each time a bill is held until the last minute, or rules are suspended to bring forward a bill that was not on the agenda. Information is frequently withheld from constituents and stakeholders.

When the rules were suspended at two thirty in the morning on the final day of session to pass a bill, or when an important bill gets redrafted the night before a vote and the related agencies do not even get a chance to read it, transparency and accountability are abandoned at the door.

Our elected officials essentially halt proper governance when they do not show up to a hearing on a controversial bill, when decoy amendments are released to distract or deter from a bill change, or when a mid-session caucus wastes hours of participant time. Our legislators aren’t always transparent with each other, hiding key information and conflicts of interest, making it difficult to be held accountable by their peers when the people can’t.

Voters need to speak out against legislation that is detrimental to their savings, communities, and businesses, but have to be abreast of upcoming bills to do so. Our legislators aren’t working for the people when the people have no idea what is going on.

In order to do better, our lawmakers must act better. As we approach the second half of the 150th General Assembly, it is important to advocate for change by advocating for transparency and accountability in our state government.

Why the DE Turf vote has some Delaware lawmakers second-guessing

From the News Journal

Some members of the Delaware General Assembly are second-guessing their yes votes on a bill that allowed Kent County to tax hotel stays and give the resulting $1 million in revenue to DE Turf, a sports complex near Frederica.

After learning the tax could benefit a proposed development championed by John Paradee – brother to the lawmaker who sponsored the bill – Sen. Cathy Cloutier, R-Heatherbrook, is one of the lawmakers who thinks there is a conflict of interest.

“It doesn’t look good,” Cloutier said.

Bill sponsor Sen. Trey Paradee, D-Dover, said he had “no idea” about his brother’s involvement in the development or that he sat on DE Turf’s board.

But in 2014, when plans for the sports complex began to move forward, The News Journal reported that John Paradee was one of the developers of Asbury Square.

 

Read more:

https://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/politics/2019/10/18/why-some-delaware-lawmakers-second-guessing-their-vote-de-turf-bill/2049336001/

Report recommends raising visibility of Delaware’s tech sector as way to attract, retain workers

From Delaware Business Now

Tech Impact released a report that explores best practices in attracting developing and retaining skilled talent for Delaware’s technology jobs.

“Banking, one of Delaware’s most historic and long-standing industries, has evolved into financial technology—or fintech—creating significant local demand for tech employees. However, a recent report focused on the state’s fintech sector stated that ‘…a national shortage of tech talent means that Delaware financial services firms are competing for top talent with firms in tech and non-tech industries across the country. Continuing to build a robust pipeline of tech talent at institutions within Delaware and the broader region will be critical in meeting local employer demand.’

The same report—released in 2019 by Delaware Prosperity Partnership, First State Fintech Lab, and the University of Delaware’s Biden School of Public Policy & Administration—found that in 2018, ‘tech occupations accounted for 19 percent of the job openings [at] twenty financial services firms… At Capital One, tech jobs accounted for 43 percent of the job postings, while at TD the figure was 29 percent, and 26 percent at JP Morgan Chase.'”

Read more: https://delawarebusinessnow.com/2019/10/report-recommends-raising-visibility-of-delawares-tech-sector-as-way-to-attract-retain-workers/

First State Spends First, Taxes Second

It’s no surprise that Delaware lawmakers continue to promote new taxes and tax increases to cover their bloated spending. This has become the new norm and is likely to continue as healthcare spending balloons, new programs are established, and administrative costs climb.

Dover’s unquenchable thirst for additional spending means taxpayers are routinely called on to bail them out through higher fees and taxes. Promised, yet unfunded retirement obligations have resulted in a multi-billion dollar concern.

The state’s “taxpayer burden” would be $27,000 per taxpayer to cover a $9.1 billion deficit. To put this into perspective, Delaware’s FY 2020 state budget is $4.4 billion, or half of the state’s current debt.

The spend-then-tax structure that has been utilized through recent sessions has been to the detriment of many Delawareans, who cannot afford to pay more taxes. These groups include senior citizens and low-income families and individuals, who are meant to be some of the populations we help through government action.

This spend-then-tax structure also impacts the businesses that provide jobs to Delaware citizens. Since the 2007 recession, state lawmakers have raised every Delaware business tax, many of them multiple times. These tax increases have been passed on to the people in higher prices and lower gains in wages.

A statewide property tax, increased income taxes, and a statewide sugar tax are just a few examples of the state’s attempt to shift the burden to the people. At some point, taxpayers can’t afford to dole out their hard-earned money to cover an irresponsible spending structure. Instead of looking for new and pervasive ways to fund the budget, lawmakers should consider re-evaluating certain costs, programs, and regulations in order to reduce our spending.

This system isn’t just a burden, it’s unsustainable.

We will never stop playing catch-up with our current model. Taxpayers will continue to carry the burden of the state as debt accumulates. This is far from the path we should take to ensure a better future for our residents, families, and businesses.

Big Delaware-based breweries are picking other states to expand. This is why

From the News Journal

When commercial real estate agents brought Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant officials a possible location for a new brewpub, the site looked promising.

It was the former home of Don Pablo’s Mexican restaurant near the Christiana Mall, which closed in late 2018 after a 19-year-run.

Not only was the site in a high-traffic area, but the brewery had previously converted a former Don Pablo’s restaurant in South Carolina and it wasn’t a big job, thanks to Don Pablo’s brick buildings, which fit Iron Hill’s aesthetic.

But Iron Hill, which got its start on Newark’s Main Street in 1996 and has grown into a regional chain with 19 locations in five states, couldn’t pull the trigger on the deal for one reason: Delaware law.

Delaware Code states that a licensee is limited to three brewpubs in the state. And since Iron Hill already had spots in Newark, Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach, they were forced to expand elsewhere.

 

Read more: https://www.delawareonline.com/story/life/2019/10/10/legislators-looking-change-delaware-code-brewpubs/3906398002/