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In The News

Lawmakers start 2020 session expecting more money, return to same controversial topics

From The News Journal

Delaware lawmakers returned from their six-month break Tuesday to everything they weren’t able to get done last year — and a projected surplus of about $200 million.

For many divisive issues such as legal weed, gun control and a $15 minimum wage, it’s not clear if much has changed since lawmakers left in July.

But surplus cash no doubt will ignite new debates about how and where it should be spent.

It could mean more money to spend on government-paid projects, such as school renovations or road repairs. But it’s also a source of anxiety for the General Assembly’s top leaders, who don’t always agree with the governor, or one another, about where it’s needed the most.

“It’s more difficult to run the Legislature when you have a surplus than when you have a deficit,” said House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear. “Everybody will be down in Legislative Hall putting their hands out.”

The Democratic governor and some Republicans are pushing for the extra money to go to one-time expenses, stressing that the state needs to be careful because future years may not be as fortunate. That translates into not starting programs that require future dollars.

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Legislator proposes live streaming, archiving of General Assembly session

From Delaware Business Now

Delaware State Rep. Mike Smith, R-Pike Creek, is introducing legislation that calls for audio and video of all General Assembly proceedings to be streamed live online.

His bill will also call for all the content to be archived and accessible via the internet, according to the House Republican Caucus.

Currently, only audio of the House and Senate floor deliberations is streamed online, and none of the content is available on the internet. The overwhelming majority of committee meetings are not streamed or digitally recorded in any fashion.

A growing number of local governments have been streaming and archiving their meetings on the Internet.

The governor’s office also streams some events, including the State of the State speech before the General Assembly.



First State dead last in the nation for GDP growth

From the Bureau of Economic Analysis

Commentary from A Better Delaware

Delaware ranks dead last in the nation for GDP growth in new Bureau of Economic Analysis report.

Delaware’s 3rd Quarter 2019 GDP growth was 0.0 percent, making DE the only state (including the District of Columbia) to see no growth in real GDP.

Read the report here:


Public-private investment poises Delaware for fintech prominence

From the Delaware Business Times

Economic Forecast: FinTech

WILMINGTON – Build it and they will come.

That’s the idea behind the $38 million FinTech Center announced by the University of Delaware in November in partnership with Discover Bank and Delaware Technology Park. The project aims to prepare hundreds of new technologically skilled financial services workers beginning in 2021, but the question remains: Will those workers stay in the state for their careers?

Delaware has been a banking center of the United States for nearly 40 years, ever since Gov. Pierre duPont IV signed the Financial Center Development Act in 1981 that axed restrictions on interest rates and gave tax breaks to the nascent credit card sector. Today, names like Chase, Barclay, M&T and WSFS dominate the Wilmington skyline, but in an increasingly modern and competitive marketplace, Delaware is once again competing for C-suite attention.

While major financial hubs like New York City, San Francisco, Boston and Chicago will continue to outpace the First State, other small cities like Cheyenne, Wyoming, are now clamoring for jobs that may once have considered Delaware as well.

That’s one reason state officials are stressing how serious Delaware is in supporting fintech, or financial technology, services.


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Growth initiatives require communities to be ready when opportunity knocks

Editorial from the Delaware Business Times

Many factors must be considered when creating an environment that enables the economic health of an area like Sussex County to flourish.

Almost a year ago, the Sussex Economic Development Action Committee made a couple of suggestions that went to the heart of our efforts to create opportunities for Sussex County to grow properly. One of those ideas was a method for growth that would allow it to pay for itself, a so-called growth fund to pay for infrastructure. I know the idea had merit as I was asked to speak to both Democratic and Republican organizations. Time marches on, yet nothing has happened with this positive idea. The success in both Middletown and Bridgeville can be attributed to communities that understood that one must be ready when opportunity knocks.

Infrastructure was built and put in place to answer the call when it came. If you are ready, that call will come. Millsboro has taken steps to be ready when its time comes, as testified by the number of success stories already in place. Creating a growth fund from revenues tied to existing growth is one idea worthy of exploration before dismissing it.

High taxes are never conducive to economic development. Sussex County Council, since 1973, has maintained a low tax rate while continuing to fund all services required by the law. Back in 1973, property taxes in the county were responsible for funding 79% of the county’s budget; by the early 1980s, that number had dropped to 29% and that was without a transfer tax. The county continues to this day to avoid the use of property taxes as the main source of its revenue. But there are clouds on the horizon. A court challenge to the county’s assessment methods has been filed and all indications are that the court will move to require that all three counties do a reassessment. Assessments for tax purposes are supposed to be fair for every property owner. The court appears to think that they are not. We do not agree. Let us suggest some points that are not being made. Why am I comfortable doing this? I did the last county reassessment.


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Proposed 202 master plan could devastate quality of life, without proper input: Opinion

From The News Journal

Commentary: Senator Cathy Cloutier

My service in the Delaware General Assembly and numerous community organizations over the years has taught me that while our state and local governments are often well-intentioned, from time to time their efforts get very myopic and insular.

Sometimes these plans are brought forth with a “central planning” mindset and a grand scale, where out-of-state consultants are often used. I have found especially that these cases often need to be stopped in their tracks and given full, careful consideration.

Unfortunately, this scenario describes the ongoing “Concord Pike Master Plan” under development by New Castle County, DelDOT and WILMAPCO, which aims to permanently change life in the Route 202 corridor.

This plan, in the works for almost a year, was unveiled again recently at what was deemed a “public meeting” at Brandywine High School.

The plan envisions a future with a massive influx of multi-story buildings, road changes that would devastate quality of life in some of our communities, and possibly even a future with no Naamans Little League fields. It is full of assumptions about traffic, development and even the way we may live 30 years from now.

At what has become the norm at these meetings, public input is partially muzzled.  Following a one-sided presentation, those attending the recent meeting on this proposal were sent to “breakout sessions” to speak one on one with consultants and other planners.

The failure to allow true public comment after the presentation prevented the public from hearing what others from various communities along Route 202 had to say. Denying residents the opportunity to hear and learn from each other was disappointing and should not happen again.

Read more: https://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/2020/01/06/proposed-route-202-master-plan-could-devastate-quality-life-opinion/2823603001/

Funding for arts agencies in Delaware to reach $3.3 million in FY2020

From Delaware Business Daily

Legislative appropriations for Delaware arts agencies are projected to reach $3.3 million for fiscal year 2020, which equates to $3.43 per capita in the state, according to a report from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA).

The state’s per-capita funding for arts agencies is the fifth highest among all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the analysis said.

In fiscal year 2019, Delaware allocated $3.2 million to arts agencies in the state. The change in funding between fiscal years 2019 and 2020 was 3.3 percent.

The NASAA identifies a number of ways state governments provide revenue to arts agencies, but the primary source of funds is a state’s general fund, according to the report. Other sources of arts agency funding include special taxes or fees, lottery and gaming taxes, specialty arts license plates and income tax checkoffs.

The assembly surveys state arts agencies biannually to update its database on appropriations and revenues going to arts programs.

Read more: https://debusinessdaily.com/stories/522660617-funding-for-arts-agencies-in-delaware-to-reach-3-3-million-in-fy2020

Zip Code Wilmington gets workforce grant aimed at assisting small businesses

From Delaware Business Now

Zip Code Wilmington was recently selected to receive the Workforce Training Grant from the Delaware Division of Small Business.

The Workforce Training Grant funds training programs for eligible Delaware companies in an effort to attract and retain high-quality jobs. This grant gives small businesses the opportunity to offset the tuition reimbursement fee required of companies when they hire a Zip Code Wilmington graduate.

“We are excited to receive the Workforce Training Grant from the Delaware Division of Small Business as it helps diversify the types of companies that can hire our talented and highly-motivated graduates,” said Desa Burton, executive director, Zip Code Wilmington. “As a self-sustaining nonprofit, we rely on tuition reimbursement paid by our corporate partners when a graduate is placed. With this grant, small businesses seeking to hire our graduateswill have affordable access to the skilled tech talent they need to help their businesses grow and remain competitive in an ever-increasing technical marketplace.”

Zip Code Wilmington is eligible to receive upwards of $100,000 to help small businesses upskill, reskill or acquire tech talent through an affordable and smart process.

“We are thrilled to select Zip Code Wilmington as a recipient of the Workforce Training Grant,” said Damian DeStefano, director of the Delaware Division of Small Business. “Zip Code Wilmington is an important partner to the State of Delaware and has been instrumental in grooming tech talent and connecting that talent to local businesses.”

Read more: https://delawarebusinessnow.com/2020/01/zip-code-wilmington/

House Republicans: Protecting jobs and parents top agenda in 2020

From The News Journal

The 150th General Assembly returns to work Jan. 14, and Republicans in the House of Representatives want to advance measures proposed earlier this year aimed at improving state government and protecting parents and small businesses.

House Bill 137 would improve disclosure to voters by requiring that all candidates running in the general election disclose if they have unpaid state or federal personal income taxes or are in arrears on their local property taxes.

The consideration of new or higher taxes is one of the most significant duties an elected official performs. We believe voters should know if candidates seeking offices with taxing authority have met their own tax-related obligations.

Another bill proposed by House Republicans seeks to help prevent elected officials from “double-dipping” salary from two taxpayer-funded jobs.

Under present law, the Public Integrity Commission (PIC) has no authority to have the State Auditor review the salary records of elected officials that may be getting paid simultaneously for two government jobs. This proposal would require elected officials, as well as paid governmental appointees who are also employed by a government agency or public school, to disclose such employment to the PIC.

We have also proposed three bills that would put an end to our state’s embarrassing tradition of passing complicated or controversial legislation in the wee hours of the morning on the last day of the session — often without required public notification and input.

Read more: https://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/2020/01/02/house-republicans-protecting-jobs-and-parents-top-agenda-2020/2783181001/

Delaware’s jobless rate up one-tenth of a point to 3.8 percent

From Delaware Business Times

The gap between the unemployment rate in Delaware and the national figure widened in November, the Delaware Department of Labor reported.

Delaware’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in November 2019 was 3.8 percent, up from 3.7 percent in October 2019. There were 18,700 unemployed Delawareans in November compared to 17,200 in November.

Delaware’s 3.8 percent rate ranked 33rd among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Illinois and North Carolina also posted a 3.8 percent rate. Alaska had the highest rate at 6.1 percent, with Vermont the lowest at 2.3 percent.

The US unemployment rate was 3.5 percent in November. That’s down from 3.6 percent in October. In October 2018 the US unemployment rate was 3.7 percent, while Delaware’s rate was 3.5 percent.


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