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Less is more: taxes and debt

One of A Better Delaware’s four pillars is lower taxes for Delawareans and businesses. While we usually focus on just state-level issues, new tax increases are being discussed at both the state and federal level.

Outside of President Biden’s new tax proposal, Delaware has had a few of its own recently, including a new income tax bracket that failed in the house. Despite still recovering from a pandemic and expecting over $2 billion from the federal government, state lawmakers said raising taxes was simply the right thing to do.

Why?

Raising taxes discourages economic development, business growth, and personal spending and saving. When our economy is looking to recover, how could this be the right thing?

Even the Secretary of Finance Rick Geisenberger worried the bill would risk decreasing personal income tax revenue. This is because high-income individuals, including tens of thousands of people who pay nonresident taxes, would simply leave Delaware or work from home in neighboring states to avoid the higher tax. The bill would also mean Delaware has more tax brackets than any other state except Hawaii.

Increasing the income tax would make Delaware less competitive with our neighbors, particularly Pennsylvania, as Delaware’s top marginal rate would be higher than the rates in neighboring states, with the exception of New Jersey.

Outside of this bill, raising any taxes over the next few years would be irresponsible fiscal policy. Delaware is looking at a surplus of over $600 million, plus over $2 billion total from federal stimulus. Any additional revenue grabs would serve no purpose for our residents.

You’ll hear many people tout Delaware’s status as a “tax-free” state, but that simply is not the case. Yes, Delaware does not have the sales tax, but we more than make up for that. Take for example the reason why we are able to avoid having a sales tax: the gross receipts tax. Delaware is one of only seven states with a gross receipts tax. These invisible sales taxes raise prices as these taxes are shifted onto consumers, and tend to impact lower incomes the most.

Delaware’s has the highest per capita revenue from corporate license fees and the fifth-highest per capita corporate income tax revenue. As if that wasn’t enough, Delaware has one of the highest individual income taxes and the highest real estate transfer tax in the nation.

Since 2016, Governor Carney approved large tax increases, but he did not work alone. The taxes started as bills heard and voted on in Dover that were approved for his final vote. Delaware’s tax increases over the last two General Assemblies (2016-2018, 2018-2020) were the 6th highest in the nation.

These tax increases were estimated to raise more than $200 million annually, the exact amount the state claimed was a “surplus” before COVID.

Instead of hurting residents, businesses, and the overall economy, we should avoid adding new spending programs that would require any tax increase, and focus on funding our $1.9 billion in unfunded pension benefits that have been largely ignored for years. This total is massive: for perspective, our pension debt is more than a quarter of the state’s annual budget.

Delaware’s fiscal condition is ranked 44th in the nation, in part due to its unfunded pension deficit, and is why Truth in Accounting’s audit of Delaware’s financial situation resulted in an F grade.

Delaware will eventually be obligated to pay its pensions, and lawmakers should turn their attention from what they believe is the right thing to do, to what is actually best for their constituents.

Note from ABD Executive Director

Friends of A Better Delaware,

For too long, Delaware lawmakers morphed our state into a place that is unrecognizable from what it was once known as: a low-tax business haven. While this may have been decades in the making, we don’t have to continue to accept the status quo and the Delaware Way and continue down the path to a dismal economy and fewer opportunities.

I tried to work in ways that I believed would change that course as I learned more and more about policy in our state, but everything was just how it had always been. Taxes kept rising, taxpayer money continued to flow into massive corporations in failed corporate welfare, and the ballooning spending never seemed to fix the problems we faced as Delawareans.

In 2017, Chris Kenny saw the same problem and had the means and courage to tackle it head on, and I was lucky to be a part of a new grassroots movement that was abandoning the status quo in hope of real change. Over the past year and a half, we have been thrilled to see thousands more join us in what we believe is possible: A Better Delaware.

In that time and with your help, we have been able to manage an outfit that has worked towards better policy outcomes in taxes, spending, regulations, and government transparency and accountability, and have won on issues that we truly believe in.

Fewer taxes help people keep their own money and can even lead to higher state revenues. A balanced state budget with strong reserves protects and serves the constituents. Over-regulation keeps small businesses from success and make it harder to enter or stay in the market. Better governance leads to better policy and a more informed public.

These principles can benefit both sides of the aisle politically and produce better outcomes, opportunities, and benefits for people from Selbyville to Talleyville.

As Executive Director of A Better Delaware, I have come to learn more than I had ever imagined about this state and what it could offer. Every day and every connection made it clear that the work we were doing mattered and resonated. This role has been unbelievably fulfilling and insightful.

As I exit Delaware and the role with ABD, I am left with a feeling of great accomplishment for the victories we have had and the work we put into everything, including our losses. Thank you to the thousands of Delawareans who have rallied behind our efforts to sway the tide on these issues. From a statewide soda tax, to higher income taxes, to holding our officials accountable for their decisions, we have started the change we hoped to see at our inception just a short time ago.

A Better Delaware is going to continue to make change, and I look forward to seeing you all continue to spread the word and grow the movement. Delaware can really be first again if we fight for better policy that truly uplifts and serves Delaware residents, businesses, and communities.

Take with you the main lesson I learned with ABD: Delaware is a wonderful place, but together we can make it better.

Thank you,

Zoe Callaway

Executive Director

A Better Delaware

Delaware can make health care better- why won’t we?

In Sussex County, one of Delaware’s most rural, and fastest-growing, areas, there are only three hospitals in more than 1,000 square miles. In August 2019, plans to bring an emergency medical center for the Georgetown area were squashed when the Delaware Health Resources Board, Delaware’s Certificate-of-Need (CON) entity, denied Beebe Healthcare’s application to expand.

It was one of the most recent casualties of Delaware’s outdated, harmful CON laws, which require health care providers to prove to the state that there’s a need for new facilities, devices and technologies before they can expand or upgrade.

The result is a health care a market where competition is unfairly limited and select health providers are able to get a stranglehold on competition. It’s the people of Delaware who ultimately suffer, faced with inflated prices and limited options for care.

In 1974, the federal government passed the National Health Planning and Resource Development Act, mandating that states have CON laws for health care in order to receive Medicare and Medicaid funding. Because the laws did not reduce costs or improve access as intended, in 1986 the federal CON laws mandate was repealed. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) Anti-Trust Division have pushed for the repeal of CON laws in the remaining 35 states – including Delaware – that maintain them.

In Delaware, CON laws create a barrier to entry into the market, inhibit expansion, and, as we’ve seen recently in Sussex County, fail to provide adequate health care services in some areas.

Delawareans have suffered the consequences of CON laws. At $9,509 per capita, Delaware has the sixth highest state government spending for health care, but also has some of the highest rates in the nation of obesity, cancer, diabetes, low birth weight, infant mortality and death before the age of 75.

Advocates of CON laws argue that they help the health care system by preventing duplication and keep prices down by restricting competition, but this contradicts the basic tenets of supply and demand. Instead, patients are forced to pay a higher price for care in older facilities with outdated equipment.

A report by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University estimates that by removing CON laws, Delaware could see a $270 saving on total health care per capita and $99 savings in physician spending per capita. The same study estimated increased access to services with a 42% increase in total hospitals and 17% increase in the number of ambulatory surgical centers.

In short, residents of the First State would have better access to care, and would pay less for it.

The benefits of repeal don’t stop there. The evidence from the Mercatus report suggests that hospital readmission, post-surgery complications and mortality rates would decrease in the absence of CON laws. Innovation and quality of health care would rise, in a market full of opportunity.

Delaware has had harmful CON laws on the books since 1978. Forty-one years later, and after a pandemic that strained our hospitals, it’s time to reevaluate, and make decisions that serve the health and well-being of every Delawarean.

These laws are hurting Delaware health care

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on many issues in the state, from government transparency to education, but perhaps the biggest focus: health care.

Our Governor, along with many others, said that the mandatory shut downs one year ago were to prevent our hospitals from going over capacity. But was the problem COVID cases or our lack of hospitals in the state?

Delaware has certificate-of-need (CON) laws in the form of the Delaware Health Resource Board. These laws require that health care providers show a need in the community for new devices, certain technologies, or expand or establish a practice. However, research finds that CON laws are associated with higher health care spending per capita and higher physician spending per capita. In Delaware, CON laws create a barrier to entry into the market, inhibit expansion, and fail to provide adequate health care services in some areas.

Delaware has seen the consequences of CON laws in health care. The First State has the highest average monthly insurance premium and one of the lowest percentages of medical residents retained.

Additionally, Delaware spends more per-capita on healthcare than every nearby state excluding New York, and ranks 7th overall for state health spending. For health care spending for patients over 65, Delaware ranks 5th highest, 6th highest for state government spending.

This isn’t the only negative impact these laws have had on our state. The presence of a CON program tends to be associated with fewer rural hospitals. Last year, we saw a battle in Sussex County regarding an expansion of services, since currently only three hospitals service 1,196 square miles of the rural county. The request to expand was denied by the HRB.

Why does Delaware still allow a virtual monopoly in health care that drives up everyone medical bills?

Proponents of CON laws argue that they help to reduce health care costs and increase access to care. Contrary to typical supply and demand, they also argue that a shorter supply of health care services in the market results in a reduction of average prices.

report by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University estimates that by removing CON laws, Delaware could see a $270 saving on total health care per capita and $99 savings in physician spending per capita. The same study estimated increased access to services with a 42% increase in total hospitals and 17% increase in the number of ambulatory surgical centers.

If this outdated Board had been sunset by the Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee last year, our COVID story may have been different.

Residents of the First State deserve to have better access to care with lower costs. Delaware has had harmful CON laws on the books since 1978. Forty-one years later, it’s time to reevaluate, and make decisions that serve the health and well-being of every Delawarean.

Delaware’s damning debt

A huge benefit to working for the state: a pension. But what if your pension is unfunded—and has been for years? Not only should state employees be concerned about their future retirement, but lawmakers and taxpayers should pay attention to what may be a looming fiscal crisis.

Delaware’s $1.9 billion in unfunded pension benefits have been largely ignored for years. This total is massive: for perspective, our pension debt is more than a quarter of the state’s annual budget. Instead of addressing it, lawmakers continue to eye pet projects and kick the can down the road. Their willing ignorance to the issue is not sustainable or beneficial for the state.

Delaware’s fiscal condition is ranked 44th in the nation, in part due to its unfunded pension deficit, and is why Truth in Accounting’s audit of Delaware’s financial situation resulted in an F grade.

Last year’s surplus of $200 million would cover 10% of the state’s pension debt, and only 1.7% of the overall state debt of $12 billion. Each Delaware taxpayer would need to contribute $24,000 in order to offset the debt.

Federal data shows that public pension debt nationally is increasing much faster than the growth of the economy, and state and local government pensions have failed to fully fund the new benefits earned by employees each year, let alone address current debts.

Part of the issue stems from repeated pushing for increased benefits in terms of health care and pensions in addition to increased wages and salaries. Additionally, governors and legislators often lack the courage to set aside the amount of money their analysts told them the state would need to add into the pension funds. Delaware is no exception here.

Delaware will eventually be obligated to pay its pensions, but may not have the money to pay for them when that day comes. That would hurt other budget items if money needs to be shifted to cover pensions, or will hurt taxpayers if they are asked to pay more.

In an interview, Warren Buffett explained the effect this issue might have on individuals and companies looking to establish themselves in a state with underfunded pensions:

“I say to myself, ‘Why do I wanna build a plant there that has to sit there for 30 or 40 years?’ Because I’ll be here for the life of the pension plan, and they will come after corporations, they’ll come after individuals…[T]hey’re gonna have to raise a lotta money.”

Chicago, which also has a pension problem, handled it just how we hope to avoid in Delaware. Mayor Rahm Emanuel initiated numerous taxes, from a large property tax hike in 2014 to a 911 communication tax. These taxes resulted in the average Chicagoan paying around $1,700 more in taxes each year.

People vote with their feet, and Delaware is already teetering on shifting into an exodus with a poor education system, a bad business climate, one of the highest income taxes in the nation, and more taxes on the table. If our lawmakers continue to ignore this issue, we could be facing a real problem.

With a current surplus from massive federal stimulus, and more money potentially on the way, Delaware could address its current unfunded debts without forcing future generations to foot the bill. This would leave the state prepared to manage new pensioners and forge a better path for the state’s budget.

One Program is A Quarter of Delaware’s Budget!

Delaware’s budget has some glaring issues that lawmakers continue to ignore: unfunded pension benefits, an anemic Rainy Day Fund, and the ballooning cost of Medicaid. In light of COVID-19 and the recent spike in healthcare demand it created, Medicaid may be the issue lawmakers need to tackle first.

Delaware’s Medicaid problem started before COVID: according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of healthcare has been rising at a pace 5.2% per year. This is concerning as it is higher than the 1.4% inflation increase over recent years. Delaware’s spending on healthcare for Fiscal Year 2021 has been estimated at nearly 40% of the state’s budget.

This is a dramatic increase from the historic 17% that Medicaid used to claim of Delaware’s budget. Currently, 59% of Delaware’s Medicaid program comes from the federal government, which is scheduled to decline slightly in the near future.

Since its start in 1965, Medicaid funding has been a joint state and federal effort. The federal government creates the ground rules for state participation in the program in exchange for large subsidies to the states. Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA), states received a “match rate” based on states’ per capita income, where higher-income states had a 50% match rate, and lower-income states received higher percentages. Each state then funds the difference with general state revenues and taxes on health care providers.

The ACA’s Medicaid expansion covered newly eligible adults with 100% federal funding from 2014 through 2016, but was reduced to 95% in 2017, 94% in 2018, 93% in 2019, and 90% thereafter. The ACA essentially duped states into expanding their Medicaid programs: the initial “free money” prompted 30 states, including Delaware, to take the deal.

This has wrecked state budgets.

The Associated Press says that California expected 800,000 new enrollees after the state’s 2013 Medicaid expansion, but wound up with 2.3 million. Enrollment crushed estimates in New Mexico by 44%, Oregon by 73%, and Washington state by more than 100%. The additional enrollees equal additional costs.

Rhode Island has one-quarter of its population on Medicaid, and the program consumes roughly 30% of all state spending. To fix this growing problem, Rhode Island has levied a 3.5% tax on insurance policies sold through the state’s ObamaCare exchange. Delaware’s Medicaid burden is even higher at almost 50%: so what will that mean for taxes here?

States increased their FY 2015 spending by the biggest margin in more than 20 years, due to huge leaps in Medicaid spending under the first full year of the ACA. The national cost of the $500 billion program is expected to rise to $890 billion by 2024.

Just like many other areas, more money doesn’t mean better outcomes. Around 55% of doctors in major metropolitan areas refuse to take new Medicaid patients and Medicaid enrollees who do find a way to see a doctor typically experience outcomes worse than those under private insurance: more in-hospital deaths, more complications from surgery, worse post treatment survival rates, and longer hospital stays than similar patients with private insurance. Often the only place a Medicaid enrollee currently can get healthcare is in an emergency room or hospital, both of which are very expensive to the system.

The answer that will seem the most logical to Delaware lawmakers will be to increase taxes, but this is an unsustainable model. As the cost grows, so will taxes—for as long as it continues to expand, which may be indefinite without reform.

A better answer to this problem is to repeal Delaware’s outdated and harmful Certificate-of-Need laws, also known as the Delaware Health Resource Board. This entity drives up costs and limits access to care. Without this in place, Delaware could save $270 per capita in healthcare costs and could add 5 more hospitals to serve its residents. With cheaper and more accessible healthcare, there may be another option available for some Medicaid enrollees, and some of Delaware’s budget that could instead go towards other necessary programs, or even result in lower taxes on residents who are already seeing increased taxes with a poor taxpayer return on investment.

The time is now to address our ballooning Medicaid issue.

The best budget fix? Less spending.

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.

Delaware spends more per capita than it’s neighboring states Pennsylvania, Maryland, and even New York. In fact, Delaware’s state and local government expenditures are higher than 43 other states, but why?

Our health care funding is out of control but has yet to proven to be worth it, with poor health outcomes and limited access to care. Our growing education budget has not improved the landscape for our students either.

No wonder our taxpayer return on investment (ROI) is 44th in the nation: Delawareans just aren’t getting any bang for their buck.

Despite this, we keep taxing and spending. 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, especially during the pandemic.

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. And it’s about to happen again.

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.

Delaware lawmakers could look to Illinois, who is looking to finally address their budget crisis. The state is considering adopting pension reform, right-sizing its union contracts and focusing education spending on classrooms instead of on administrative bloat.

If Illinois had implemented this plan just four years ago, the spending reforms would have saved a total of $12.6 billion, the bill backlog would be $4 billion lower, and could have enabled cutting the income tax. Illinois lawmakers could issue the tax cut as early as fiscal year 2024, or use surpluses to add to the state’s rainy day fund.

Delaware too could benefit from these exact measures.

There have been measures proposed in recent years to address this that continue to stall. The bipartisan Governmental Accountability Act would require agency evaluations for budget proposals and would promote more efficiency state spending. The constitutional amendment to codify our current budget stabilization measures would ensure that future Governors are also mindful of state spending by not allocating one hundred percent of the budget.

Implementing these measures that have already been drafted and proposed would help set up the First State for a better future, just as Illinois is attempting to do.

We can never escape this game of playing catch-up with our current model. Taxpayers will continue to carry the burden of the state as spending grows and unfunded debts climb. This is far from the path we should take to ensure a better future for our residents, families, and businesses.

Delaware’s Stimulus Sugar High

While Delawareans have been tightening their purse strings, Delaware’s nearly $5 billion budget continues to bloat, with spending increases, pay increases, and several massive one-time spending projects. The total of these projects is $260.5 million of taxpayer cash, $60.5 million more than the expected “surplus” of $200 million last year, which was simply the exact revenue total generated by Carney’s tax increases in his first year as Governor in 2017.

The federal stimulus “sugar high” allowed the Governor to bring up these massive pet projects once again. While Delaware’s expected revenue shortfall for FY 2021 was avoided, it was only due to $900 million in federal monies from the CARES Act that were drastically out of proportion to the state’s direct COVID-related expenses.

Carney touted Delaware small businesses received 83% of the CARES Act funding that has been spent so far, but this is only due to a tough fight from business leaders and multiple chambers of commerce—after months of pleading for assistance.

It took 69 days, a weak regional effort, and continued pressure from various stakeholders to finally establish Delaware’s Pandemic Resurgence Advisory Committee, and Delaware’s efforts to help its own businesses were next to nonexistent, spare the H.E.L.P. loans that are only available to the hospitality industry.

It’s wasn’t that we couldn’t afford to help our small and family-owned businesses: we had just given $2.5M to a British bank that only a year prior took 500 jobs out of Delaware. Our leaders simply chose not to help.

At the start of the pandemic, Delaware’s senior most politicians admitted their focus was not to help businesses. Other states with more favorable business climates had already recognized the importance of this assistance and taken steps early on to mitigate the problem, but Delaware continued to hold off on state assistance and releasing CARES funds once they were received.

Instead of helping, Delaware General Assembly leadership sent a letter to Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and Senators Chris Coons and Tom Carper, begging that federal funds be opened up to be used for other purposes than addressing COVID-related expenses, like the state budget. Luckily for Delaware businesses and workers, the package was restricted to COVID-related funding, and could not be spent for traditional budget items.

After months of delay (which exacerbated Delaware businesses’ needs) the state finally released the money meant to help them recover, once they realized their blanket spending requests would not be met.

The state’s current revenue is propped up from two federal stimulus packages that are a false safety net for the economy and generating one-time increased tax revenues, like those from our the highest in the nationreal estate transfer tax, and worst in the nation corporate tax burden. Rick Geisenberger, Delaware’s Finance Secretary is weary of assuming stable revenues as the pandemic still has no end in sight.

More focus should be on preparing for other budget catastrophes, like those seen in 2008 and 2017. Delaware ranks 45th in the nation for short-term financial stability, yet we spend as if the future is guaranteed. The Joint Finance Committee reviews and authorizes the Governor’s budget during the month of February: call the JFC members if you’re concerned about the lack of rainy Day Funds, the unfunded pension liabilities, the ballooning Medicaid costs, and the repeated delays in support for small business.

The Governor’s budget kicks the can

Governor Carney announced his proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget of $4.7 billion last week, a 3.5% increase from FY 2021. Although this meets the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council (DEFAC) benchmark and replenishes reserve funds used during the pandemic, it also continues to kick the can down the road on major items.

The current budget proposal continues the trend of prioritizing spending increases, pay increases, and several massive one-time spending projects, instead of addressing long standing issues like a comparatively small Rainy Day Fund, unfunded pension obligations, and a ballooning health care budget.

Delaware’s percentage of its budget in Rainy Day Funds is less than 31 other states, resulting in only 20 days of operation on reserve funding. Delaware’s Rainy Day Fund allocations have been below the 50 state median since 2017. The COVID-19 pandemic and other recent state budget crises in 2017 and 2008 should push us to do more to build up these reserves.

Without the CARES Act federal assistance, which was drastically out of proportion to the state’s direct COVID-related expenses, our Rainy Day Funds would have only lasted us for 6% of the Governor’s State of Emergency that has been in place for over 300 days. When the next revenue crisis comes, Delaware may be forced to go back to bad practices like raising taxes to make up the difference, since our reserves are anemic.

Even more concerning is the state’s $1.9 billion in unfunded pension benefits, which have been largely ignored for years. This total is massive: for perspective, our pension debt is more than a quarter of the state’s annual budget. Our pension crisis is looming, and lawmakers have continued to turn a blind eye as they allocate surpluses to pet projects.

The responsible thing to do with any surplus at this point is put it towards paying down this debt. Last year’s surplus of $200 million would cover 10% of the state’s pension debt, and only 1.7% of the overall state debt of $12 billion.

If the legislature is forced to pay out its obligations at some point and turns to the taxpayer, each Delaware taxpayer would need to contribute $24,000 in order to fix the financial crisis. This is why Truth in Accounting’s audit of Delaware’s financial situation resulted in an F grade, because we are failing our residents and future.

Perhaps the biggest and most visible concern that we continue to kick down the road is Delaware’s unsustainable health care costs. For a long time, Medicaid was approximately 17% of the state’s budget, but in recent years has risen to over 25% of the budget.

For now, over half of Delaware’s Medicaid program comes from the federal government, but that money is expected to shrink in the future, placing the burden on the state. Delaware’s health care budget is already one of the highest per capita in the nation, and cannot sustain any more growth.

Delaware leaders must look to alternatives to our current system, especially since Delaware’s health outcomes are extremely poor compared to other states, despite the massive spending. Taking steps like eliminating the Delaware Health Resources Board, which raises costs and limits access to care, would be a step in the right direction to allow for a better system.

As we move into Delaware’s budget hearings throughout the month of February, it is critical for the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) members to stop kicking the can down the road. With the cushion of federal money and a resulting surplus, now is the time to address our budgetary concerns that could cripple us in the near future.

Minimum Wage: It’s not ‘Now or Never’

draft of a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026—which would amount to a 61.6% increase—has been drafted and circulated for co-sponsorship. In light of a potential federal $15 minimum wage looming ahead, let’s look at the impact this would have.

A minimum wage increase of only $1 an hour can cost small businesses tens of thousands of dollars in additional payroll costs each year. This bill would force businesses let employees go if and when the minimum wage rises in their state, and prevent them from hiring new workers and expanding their business.

More than 163,000 Delaware workers have filed for unemployment assistance in the wake of the pandemic, with no sign of things returning to normal anytime soon. The minimum wage increase at this time would only drive more unemployment as Delaware businesses would be forced to lay off workers.

Less workers means less money circulated in the economy, less tax revenue, and less overall growth. Increased unemployment also contributes to domestic violence, mental health issues, obesity, and more. This should not only be seen as an economic issue, but a health concern as well.

Feel good policy isn’t always good. In this case, it hurts the very people it claims to help: low-wage and low-skill workers, disabled workers, former inmates, and more. These workers rely on low-skill and low-wage jobs that will now go to more experienced and attractive candidates as businesses will be looking to get what they are paying for in an employee.

Anyone who has studied basic economics can explain the price floor mechanism that is minimum wage, and how it directly results in increased unemployment and inflation. Prices will rise and goods will become too expensive for most, and the new “livable wage” will no longer be livable. In 5 years, will we be confronted with another government mandated market shift that will warp buying power and job security?

It doesn’t stop there. Small business cannot afford the same minimum wage increase that major corporations like McDonald’s and Amazon have already enacted internally. As big companies shift multi-billion dollar revenues around to account for the higher wages, small businesses are left scrambling.

The Delaware restaurant industry has had a particularly tough time during the pandemic, and would be crushed by a mandate like a minimum wage increase for at least a few years. It took the First State six years to recover from the 2008 recession. Despite the numbers being far worse than twelve years ago, the new minimum wage would start in just one year. Our small businesses and low-skill and low-income workers would have no chance.

It is interesting that the same people who want to stop the growth of these mega corporations also support a measure that would directly benefit them and hurt their competition. Rather than address the causes of these high living costs, proponents of $15 minimum wage want businesses to bear the cost of the problem.

Make no mistake, the very people pushing for $15 understand the consequences this mandate presents. When signing California’s $15 minimum wage into law, California Governor Jerry Brown said that “Economically, minimum wages may not make sense. But morally, socially, and politically they make every sense.”

The unintended consequences of raising the minimum wage have already been seen in New York, San Francisco, and Illinois. In San Francisco and New York, the restaurant industry has been hit especially hard by the measure, with many businesses raising prices (and losing customers), cutting hours, reducing staff, and some even filing for bankruptcy. When New York City’s minimum wage was raised to $15 per hour, there was an overall decline in restaurant workers, despite total employment increasing by more than 163,000 workers.

Owners tried raising menu prices and adding an extra surcharge to customers’ bills, but restaurants were no longer profitable. Many industries will face the same problem and their businesses will reduce worker hours or the number of workers, scale-back production, turn to automation, or shut down. Businesses want to pay their workers more, but government-mandated increases in wages hurt employment and the overall economy.

Delaware may not have a choice in the matter if the federal mandate passes. However, if that does not happen and the bill comes forward for a vote this session, Delaware lawmakers can either look at the evidence and decide to help Delaware workers and businesses, or vote based on rhetoric and make matters worse. shouldn’t join just to feel good. Increasing the minimum wage in the midst of a pandemic that crippled the workforce and businesses alike is not in the best interest of anyone but their own re-election.