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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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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/

Economic changes push need for new workforce training

From Delaware State News

DOVER — The future of work is changing.

People born in 2019 will probably have very different career paths than their grandparents or even their parents.

Globalization, automation, computerization — the economy of the 21st century is shaping up to be dramatically different than the one that emerged after World War II and led to prosperity for so many Americans in the second half of the 1900s.

If the newest generations are to be successful, business leaders, education officials and policymakers will have to keep an eye to the future and make changes, several people said Tuesday at a conference on workforce development.

The event, hosted by the State Chamber of Commerce, was intended to shine a spotlight on issues companies face in finding qualified workers.
Despite the unemployment rate falling to pre-recession levels (including, earlier this year, the best months in that regard in 50 years), the state still has a scarcity of workers in many fields, especially blue-collar ones such as construction and autowork.

While it’s unknown what Delaware’s economy will look like in 20 years, it’s safe to say it probably won’t be predicated on the four Cs — chemicals, credit cards, cars and chickens — that have been so important to the state for decades.

 

Read more: https://delawarestatenews.net/news/economic-changes-push-need-for-new-workforce-training/

Iron Hill opts for production location in Exton, PA after inaction by General Assembly

From Delaware Business Now

After an unsuccessful effort to change a Delaware law that limits the number of breweries owned by one company, Wilmington-based Iron Hill has signed a lease to build a production brewery in Exton, PA.

The brewery is expected to open in the summer of 2020 at The Shops on Eagleview Boulevard (240 Eagleview Boulevard).

The location will be known as Iron Hill Brewery & Taphouse.

Iron Hill has three breweries in Delaware and needed a change in the law that limits it to that number. The state’s liquor laws also ban supermarket sales, while limiting the number of liquor stores owned by one entity to two.

Pennsylvania, while maintaining a system of state-owned liquor stores, has loosened regulations on sales of beer and wine at grocery and convenience stores.

 

Read more:

https://delawarebusinessnow.com/2019/09/iron-hill-opts-for-production-location-in-exton-pa-after-inaction-by-general-assembly/

Despite improvement, Delaware’s 2018 taxpayer burden still gets an F

From The News Journal

Most people have budgets to manage their money, pay their bills and save what is left.

Spending more money than you bring in can cause problems, and that’s why the Chicago-based think tank Truth in Accounting analyzes every state’s expenses and how much revenue they bring in.

Delaware is one of nine states to receive a grade F for its taxpayer burden. Those nine states would need additional money from taxpayers to pay off its bills.

Delaware would need an additional $27,100 per taxpayer to fully pay its bills each year, according to 2018 data released by TIA.

The taxpayer burden lowered to -$27,100 in 2018 from -$30,400 the year before. TIA calculated taxpayer burden by the state’s bills divided by the number of taxpayers.

“Though it got better,” said Sheila Weinberg, founder and CEO at TIA, “Delaware is more of an outlier because they don’t put enough money towards retirees’ health care liability and pension liability.”

Weinberg says Delaware saves 3 cents for every dollar for retirees’ health care liability. The only worst state is New York at 1 cent.

Read more:

https://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/politics/2019/09/30/despite-improvement-delawares-2018-taxpayer-burden-still-gets-f/2370396001/

Dover Mall expansion idles

From Delaware State News

DOVER — In 2017, extensive legislative groundwork was laid to significantly grow the almost 40-year-old Dover Mall.

The owners, Simon Property Group along with Western Development Corp., showcased blueprints that would add about 54,700 square feet for new stores to the current mall and build a “power center” to the east with 22 buildings covering more than 550,000 square feet.

The hitch that would make the expansion possible was a proposed Del. 1 toll road entrance on the east side of the mall that would cost an estimated $31 million to build.

A new road would allow for direct access to the expanded mall complex from the state’s arterial highway.

In the developers’ vision, the Dover Mall would start to resemble the Christiana Mall, which boasts 175 stores plus several outlying retail centers.
John Paradee, a Dover lawyer representing the firms, helped steer seven different pieces of legislation supporting the project in 2017.

“The Dover Mall is in jeopardy as it currently exists,” he said at the time.
Mr. Paradee claimed the construction of the access road would greatly enhance the mall’s profile, which would ultimately bring more companies and shoppers.

“We’re already talking to people who have told us, ‘if you build it, we will come,’” he said at the time.

Read more:

https://delawarestatenews.net/news/dover-mall-expansion-idles/

The First State May be the First to have a Statewide Soda Tax

Delaware may be eyeing a sugar tax in the near future, as the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services begins exploring the possible effects of a statewide soda tax.

While no state has a state-wide soda tax at this time, all 7 U.S. cities that have enacted one have a tax structure that places the burden of the tax on the distributor. This increases the cost to companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi to sell their product and passes off some of the burden in a cost increase to the consumer.

Businesses in these areas are already feeling the strain from the soda tax as exampled by Jeff Brown, owner of a now-closed ShopRite in Philly. Brown cites the Philly soda tax as the reason behind closing the doors of one of his stores, and says revenue has dipped by 20 percent.

“So the customers have a lot of choices outside the city where they can avoid this tax,” Brown said. “They voted with their feet.”

Delaware would likely witness a similar scenario, where consumers would make the short trip across state lines to purchase cheaper products. Moving profits out-of-state will harm businesses and the communities they serve– just like in Philadelphia.

These initiatives also place a disproportionate burden on lower income families, who consume more sugary drinks on average. Low income individuals also staff the jobs that are at risk of being impacted by these initiatives, proving the measure to be dually burdensome to this population.

According to the Tax Policy Center, this method of taxation is most beneficial if the goal is to increase tax revenue, but not to encourage healthy behavior.  So why are Delaware legislators considering a soda tax?

Good question.

Chicago and Santa Fe have already repealed their soda taxes after opposition from constituents, business owners, and companies distributing in these areas. In Philadelphia, the tax has fallen short of revenue projections and has dropped beverage sales by 51%.

If this measure has been less than successful in the cities it has been tested in, our legislators should avoid testing it across our entire state—at the detriment of Delaware families, communities, and businesses.