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What’s New

Infrastructure Investments in Delaware, Let’s Make it Count!

From: Kathleen Rutherford, Executive Director, A Better Delaware

To quote one of the most famous rappers in popular culture, when it comes to the incoming and massive federal infrastructure funding, “You only get one shot, do not miss your chance…this opportunity comes once in a lifetime.”  Delaware: We have only one chance to get this right and we have every ability to do so. The state is set to receive a minimum of $2 billion in funding for roads, bridges, public transit, electrifying the transportation system, airports, water, and other infrastructure over the next five years. As we determine how best to allocate these funds, we must think differently, and we cannot rely on the same state and local agency-led project prioritization and delivery processes that have been used in the past. Those processes do not prioritize the leveraging of private funding, nor do they weigh heavily enough the importance of economic development. This is not meant to minimize the efforts of state agencies like the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control or the Department of Transportation as they do have prioritization processes in place, but those processes are not broad enough and have been utilized to make the most from extremely limited resources. With $2 billion in resources, Delaware’s agencies must be more forward-thinking.

Other states are thinking big and outside the box, and we should as well. For example, California has said it will use its funds to address the top public needs associated with climate change and wildfires. This is outside of their normal project prioritization process and has been deemed a priority. We can also look to West Virginia, where they have determined they will use some funding specifically for rural programming to connect Interstate 79 to Interstate 81 — a project which has been planned for over a half-century. West Virginia has also indicated they will use some funds to address the cleanup of toxins from abandoned mines at an estimated cost of $11 billion over 15 years. On the Gulf Coast, Louisiana officials are looking to fund a high-speed passenger rail system between Baton Rouge and New Orleans — a project that has been studied for decades. Florida has allocated hundreds of millions for rural communities to improve infrastructure while simultaneously expanding the local workforce. Funds from that program are designed to encourage job creation, capital investment and the strengthening and diversification of rural economies by promoting tourism, trade, and economic development. Florida is also dedicating more than a half-billion dollars to resilience efforts to protect the state against rising seas, stronger storms, and flooding. These are just a few examples of states that are thinking big with their incoming infrastructure dollars.

Delaware must also think big. We have a tremendous opportunity to bring together the business community with the state and local governments to take a comprehensive look at how we leverage public and private investments to get the most for Delaware’s infrastructure. Delaware could maximize its share by partnering with private firms to incentivize necessary projects. Just think about that for a moment: By partnering with companies that are looking to make their own investments in and around their businesses to expand and grow, Delaware can leverage its funds to create jobs, spur economic development and expedite the timeline for major infrastructure projects. The wonderful thing about this concept is — as a small state with highly productive business-led organizations such as the Delaware Business Roundtable and the state’s 14 chambers of commerce — it would only take some courageous moves from members of the General Assembly and the Governor to create this mechanism.

Infrastructure is not and should not be a partisan issue. Delaware has done a fine job — within its resources — to put mechanisms in place aimed at increasing and spurring economic development. Some examples include the Strategic Fund, Site Readiness Fund, and Transportation Infrastructure Investment Fund. Why not build on those mechanisms? Delaware is presented with a great opportunity — one of the greatest infrastructure investments in its history — and Delawareans must be concerned about our ability to meet the moment with sound policy that benefits everybody. As much as Delaware stands to gain, poor decision-making stands to jeopardize economic and sustainable growth, tens of thousands of jobs, safer communities, the environment, and overall increased quality of life for all Delawareans. We should all want these things for ourselves, our families, and our communities. So, let’s make sure we get this right! Talk with your legislators and make sure they hear you. With the entire General Assembly up for re-election, the temptation to not focus on the big picture is greater than ever. We cannot let that happen. “Look if you had one shot, or one opportunity…would you capture it or just let it slip?”

 

State Budget Writers Should Resist Temptation to Spend Surplus Funds

From: John Locke Foundation

With state revenue for the current fiscal year now projected to be $4.2 billion higher than originally predicted, state budget writers are sitting on a sizeable stack of funds. The revenue windfall, combined with another $2.4 billion in unappropriated funds and the $3.1 billion in the state’s Rainy Day fund no doubt creates temptation to aggressively finance new programs or even one-time initiatives. “We have the money, we shouldn’t just let it sit there!” is a common refrain coming from those always eager to increase government spending.

Legislators would be unwise, however, to give in to such temptation.

Signs of an economic slowdown, or full recession, are glaring. Runaway inflation, a stock market dive, a cooling of the overheated housing market, and consumer confidence dipping to levels not seen in a decade all point in this direction. Indeed, GDP decreased by 1.4% in the first quarter, so we may already be in recession territory.

Thankfully, North Carolina state government is far better positioned to withstand a recessionary period than it was leading up to the Great Recession in 2007-08. With little set aside in the Rainy Day Fund, growing debt obligations, and an unsustainable spending spree of 49% spending growth in the 8 years prior, state budget writers and then-Governor Bev Purdue were forced into a desperate situation when recession hit. Massive budget shortfalls had to be filled. That which wasn’t covered by federal ‘stimulus’ money was made up for by multi-billion dollar tax hikes imposed on North Carolina families when they could least afford it. And thousands of state employees were laid off, including teachers, while teachers went three straight years without a pay raise.

Fortunately, North Carolina can avoid such painful policies as long as they avoid the temptation to spend down their sizeable reserves. For context, we can look at the revenue impacts North Carolina experienced in the Great Recession.

For the beinnium of FY 2007-8 and 2008-9, total combined budgeted expenditures were $41.86 billion. Actual revenue, according to State Controller reports, over that two-year period came in at $38.92 billion, good for a $2.9 billion shortfall, with $2.1 billion of that in 08-09 alone.

Furthermore, even with a smaller biennial budget of $38.57 beginning with FY 2009-10, actual revenue still fell $750 million short during those two years

Indeed, state General Fund revenue never recovered to FY 2007-8 levels until five years later. In the intervening four years, revenue collections would have needed to be a combined $2.83 billion more just for each year to keep pace with the 07-08 revenue level. To accommodate even minor annual budget increases would have required billions more.

When a recession hits, revenue can nosedive quickly and dramatically. And, if the Great Recession is any indication, revenue can take several years just to get back up to pre-recession levels. To avoid massive layoffs and tax hikes, state budget writers would be wise avoid the temptation to spend down the surplus funds, and save them to plug in what may shape up to be sizeable budget shortfalls.

Death Spiral Demographics in Delaware

From: Caesar Rodney Institute

In 2011, the  Caesar Rodney Institute (CRI) published an analysis showing Delaware’s 2007-2009 migration trends. At that time, Delaware was gaining citizens from high-tax, low-growth Northeastern States (two-thirds of in-migration coming from New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts & Pennsylvania) while losing residents to low-tax, high-growth Southern States (two-thirds going to North Carolina, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee).

This report updates that analysis using US Census Bureau data for the years 2010-2020 and adds an overlay of age demographics to better interpret the data.

Retirees Moving in from the Northeast

Delaware continues to gain residents from the moribund and declining Northeast. But the reason is probably NOT due to economic opportunity, but for retirement purposes.

During the last decade, Delaware’s in-migration trends have become more concentrated, with over 76.2% of Delaware’s net in-migration coming from three states: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.

Picture1.png
(Table Source: Author’s own calculations using data from 2010-2019 US Census Bureau.)

Why does CRI assume that these migrants are coming to retire in Delaware? Because during this same time period, Delaware has become the 4th most rapidly aging state in the nation as measured by the growth rate in the 65+ age cohort. Delaware now has the 5th largest percentage of the population over 65 years old in the country at 20%.

In other words, from 2010 to 2020, Delaware’s 65+ population grew to become 20% of the state’s population, ranking 5th highest in the nation, and this growth rate was the 4th highest in the country.

And, where do these new Delawareans live? During this decade, Sussex County’s population grew by 22.6% and Kent County’s by 13.1%, but New Castle County only grew by 4.3%, which is less than one-half of one percent per year.

Given this data, it is likely that most of this net in-migration are retirees. It is important to note that Delaware has significant tax incentives for retirees (both on income and real estate) along with relatively inexpensive real estate prices. Incentives matter.

The Young and Working Age Moving South and West

With retirees relocating from the expensive Northeast, where are Delawareans moving out-of-state going? The answer to this question is a bifurcated one. A decade ago, two-thirds of our out-migration was heading to the southern states. Today the answer is more complicated.

While just under 50% of our net out-migration is still heading to states like Florida, Texas, and Georgia, another ~20% is moving to the West Coast – Oregon, Washington, and California.

Picture5.png
(Table Source: Author’s own calculations using data from 2010-2019 US Census Bureau.)

Could these out-migrants be the sign of a “brain drain” as our working-age population seeks jobs in the tech industry? The reason to ask this question is that Delaware’s working-age population (25 to 64) has been relatively flat over the last decade, growing at far less than 1% per year.

Furthermore, the under-25 population has declined by over 3% during this period. Delaware now has the 7th smallest youth population in the nation on a percentage basis – tied with Oregon.

Picture5.png
(Table Source: Author’s own calculations using data from 2010-2020 US Census Bureau.)

The Full Picture Means No Economic Growth for Delaware

Irrespective of why young people are leaving Delaware while retirees are moving in, these are very bad demographic trends. The following chart shows 2010 versus 2020 age breakdown in Delaware.

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Fundamentally, economic growth requires increases in worker productivity. With retirees moving in, youth moving out, and a flat working-age population, Delaware will not experience increases in productivity. Our economy is in a negative spiral.

For over a decade, CRI has presented policy options in education reform, tax reform, and regulatory reform that could have ameliorated these trends. CRI has been largely ignored.

On June 7th, Delaware state leaders from business, government, and related entities will be meeting in Dover. This meeting is a chance for these leaders to make a cool-headed appraisal of where Delaware is; where it is headed; and embrace different policy ideas to change direction and remake Delaware as the “Small Wonder.”

It happened under Governor du Pont in the 1980s. It is time again.

2022’s Best & Worst States for Military Retirees

From: WalletHub 

As military personnel retire, whether they faced active combat or not, they may find it difficult to readjust to civilian life. For example, the U.S. is still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more people than the Civil War did. Thankfully, things are starting to get closer to normality due to the distribution of vaccines, and states have been able to remove most restrictions.

Even without a pandemic, retirement from the military is always difficult, with many retirees facing major struggles including posttraumatic stress disorder, disability and homelessness. These veterans must also consider how state tax policies on military benefits vary, along with the relative friendliness of different job markets and other socioeconomic factors, when choosing a state in which to settle down.

In order to help ease the burden on our nation’s military community, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on their ability to provide a comfortable military retirement. Our analysis uses a data set of 29 key metrics, ranging from veterans per capita to number of VA health facilities to job opportunities for veterans.

Main Findings

Overall Rank  State Total Score  Economic Environment  Quality of Life  Health Care 
1 Virginia 60.70 7 5 12
2 Florida 59.32 10 4 24
3 Minnesota 59.14 17 37 2
4 Maryland 59.04 19 1 19
5 New Hampshire 58.90 8 8 10
6 Alaska 57.83 5 6 29
7 South Carolina 57.45 26 3 22
8 Maine 56.75 14 21 6
9 South Dakota 56.65 9 24 7
10 Connecticut 56.02 42 27 1
11 North Carolina 55.31 4 14 30
12 Alabama 54.06 2 16 44
13 Hawaii 53.97 23 22 8
14 Massachusetts 53.41 18 50 4
15 Utah 53.18 1 31 42
16 Arizona 52.98 13 9 43
17 Kansas 52.40 35 17 15
18 Wisconsin 52.21 32 28 9
19 North Dakota 52.08 12 30 32
20 West Virginia 51.10 6 39 36
21 Montana 50.77 24 12 34
22 Nebraska 50.76 39 19 13
23 Kentucky 50.65 16 38 27
24 Idaho 50.41 34 18 28
25 Pennsylvania 50.31 44 40 5
26 Delaware 50.23 47 11 14
27 Louisiana 50.06 21 25 37
28 Missouri 49.90 31 13 35
29 Oklahoma 49.80 30 7 47
30 Michigan 49.79 28 44 16
31 Texas 49.54 20 36 31
32 Arkansas 49.19 29 29 33
33 Wyoming 49.16 25 2 51
34 Indiana 49.10 11 41 39
35 New Jersey 48.74 46 15 21
36 Tennessee 48.12 3 47 45
37 Colorado 48.09 45 20 25
38 Georgia 48.04 15 23 48
39 New York 47.76 49 48 3
40 Ohio 47.69 41 42 11
41 Illinois 47.64 37 43 23
42 Iowa 47.06 36 34 38
43 Rhode Island 46.39 40 45 20
44 California 46.37 50 10 17
45 Mississippi 44.59 22 32 50
46 New Mexico 43.89 48 26 40
47 Washington 43.45 43 35 46
48 Oregon 41.87 27 51 26
49 District of Columbia 41.26 38 49 41
50 Nevada 41.21 33 46 49
51 Vermont 40.49 51 33 18

Note: With the exception of “Total Score,” all of the columns in the table above depict the relative rank of that state, where a rank of 1 represents the best conditions for that metric category.

Veterans per Capita
Most Veterans
  • 1. Alaska
  • 2. Montana
  • 3. Virginia
  • 4. Maine
  • 5. Wyoming
Veterans per Capita
Fewer Veterans
  • 47. California
  • 48. Utah
  • 49. District of Columbia
  • 50. New Jersey
  • 51. New York
Number of VA Health Facilities per Number of Veterans
Most Facilities
  • 1. New York
  • 2. California
  • 3. Wyoming
  • 4. Montana
  • 5. Texas
Number of VA Health Facilities per Number of Veterans
Fewest Facilities
  • 47. Washington
  • 48. South Carolina
  • 49. District of Columbia
  • 50. Delaware
  • 51. Rhode Island
Ask the Experts

Members of the armed forces deserve a comfortable retirement in exchange for their brave sacrifices. But it’s not easy to readjust to civilian life. For insight and advice on overcoming challenges faced by veteran retirees, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:

  1. Should veterans have to pay taxes on retirement pay?
  2. What should veterans consider in choosing where to retire?
  3. What are the best economic opportunities for retired military personnel looking for a new career?
  4. How can the VA healthcare system be improved to better serve veterans and their families?
  5. How should the government help the military community?

Methodology

In order to determine the best and worst states for military retirement, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across three key dimensions: 1) Economic Environment, 2) Quality of Life and 3) Health Care.

We evaluated those dimensions using 29 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for military retirees. For metrics marked with an asterisk (*), we measured the “number of veterans” by the square root of the veteran population in order to avoid overcompensating for small differences among states, considering Veterans Administration (VA) facilities have not increased proportionally with the number of veterans.

We then determined each state and the District’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.

Economic Environment – Total Points: 33.33

  • State Tax on Military Pension: Quadruple Weight (~6.35 Points)
  • Tax-Friendliness: Double Weight (~3.17 Points)
    Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Tax Rates by State” report.
  • Share of Veteran-Owned Businesses: Full Weight (~1.59 Points)
  • Dollars in Defense Department Contracts per Capita: Full Weight (~1.59 Points)
  • Job Opportunities for Veterans: Triple Weight (~4.76 Points)
  • State Authorization for Veterans’ Preference in Private Hiring: Full Weight (~1.59 Points)
    Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of a state statute authorizing private employers to implement a veteran-employment preference without vulnerability to claims of discrimination.
  • Job Growth (2021 vs. 2020): Double Weight (~3.17 Points)
  • Military Bases & Installations per 100,000 Veterans: Full Weight (~1.59 Points)
  • Total VA Expenditure per Number of Veterans: Full Weight (~1.59 Points)
  • Presence of State Help for Returning Veterans: Full Weight (~1.59 Points)
    Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of veteran transition programs & commissions in a state.
  • Presence of Academic Credit for Military Service: Full Weight (~1.59 Points)
    Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of state legislation recognizing the varied skills and knowledge veterans acquire by counting it toward college credit.
  • Housing Affordability: Double Weight (~3.17 Points)
  • Cost-of-Living Index: Full Weight (~1.59 Points)

Quality of Life – Total Points: 33.33

  • Share of Veterans: Full Weight (~3.17 Points)
  • Share of Veterans Not Receiving SNAP: Full Weight (~3.17 Points)
  • Share of VA Benefits-Administration Facilities per Number of Veterans*: Double Weight (~6.35 Points)
  • Quality of Public University System: Full Weight (~3.17 Points)
    Note: This metric is based on WalletHub “College & University Rankings.”
  • Arts, Entertainment & Recreation Establishments per Capita: Half Weight (~1.59 Points)
  • Share of Population Aged 40 & Older: Full Weight (~3.17 Points)
  • Share of Homeless Veterans: Double Weight (~6.35 Points)
  • Idealness of Weather: Double Weight (~6.35 Points)
    Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Cities with the Best & Worst Weather” ranking.

Health Care – Total Points: 33.33

  • Number of VA Health Facilities per Number of Veterans*: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
  • Federal, State, Local & Private Hospitals per Capita: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
  • Quality of VA Hospitals: Triple Weight (~9.09 Points)
    Note: This metric includes VA hospital performance star rating from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ “Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning” (SAIL) performance improvement tool.
  • Physicians per Capita: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
  • Mental Health Counselors per Capita: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
  • Veteran Suicide Rate: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
  • Presence of Veteran-Treatment Courts: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
    Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of veteran-treatment courts, programs that provide treatment and mentoring services to veterans with mental-health and substance-abuse problems in order to keep them out of the criminal justice system and help stabilize their lives.
  • Percentage of Residents 12+ Who Are Fully Vaccinated: Double Weight (~6.06 Points)

Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Military Officers Association of America, Military OneSource, USAspending.gov, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Conference of State Legislatures, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Council for Community and Economic Research, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Indeed and WalletHub research.

Commentary: Inspector General office will benefit citizens, state

From: Bay to Bay News

Delaware’s legislature has a golden opportunity to take a major step forward in addressing shortcomings in state agency management and a seemingly never-ending string of minor and major scandals involving agency operations. The bipartisan House Bill 405 would create a statewide Office of the Inspector General.

For the past three years, the Delaware Coalition for Open Government (DelCOG) — through contact with the Association of Inspectors General at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, presentations to good-government groups across Delaware and commentaries in the Delaware news media — has been raising awareness of the need for a Delaware inspector general for independent and nonpartisan oversight of state agencies and state-funded entities.

DelCOG is pleased to know Democrats and Republicans in both houses of the Delaware General Assembly have come together to establish an Office of the Inspector General in HB 405.

The bipartisan effort to create this office for the benefit of all Delawareans is a testament to the need for the oversight it will provide and the investigative authority that will address not only waste, fraud and abuse but also mismanagement, misconduct, corruption and neglect of office.

The inspector general will be authorized to investigate possible illegal activities in state agencies, as well as to investigate mismanagement and related issues that undermine the effectiveness of agencies and limit their abilities to help Delawareans. An inspector general also can act in concert with the Delaware attorney general to promote ethical and legal behavior and stop agency mismanagement and abuse of office.

When state agencies fail in their missions or ignore their inherent responsibilities, the public has the right to report issues, demand solutions and expect corrective actions to be implemented — a role that the Office of the Inspector General would fulfill through its mission of transparency and accountability.

Government functions best when transparency, accountability and “in the public interest” are the guideposts that state agency officials follow in making decisions and carrying out policies for the safety, well-being and happiness of Delaware’s citizens, as well as helping to ensure proper use of taxpayer money.

When state agency officials ignore or dismiss these guideposts, mismanagement and neglect of office swiftly can lead not only to conflicting policies and actions but also to waste, fraud, abuse or worse. Consequently, DelCOG believes Delaware needs a dedicated, nonpartisan and independent inspector general for oversight and investigation, ultimately to enhance public trust in our government.

An Office of the Inspector General, through its investigations and efforts to improve management, can contribute to agencies addressing chronic problems that Delawareans observe or perceive, such as suspicious bids and state contracts; questionable property and real estate sales and leases, as well as grants and loans; discrimination in agencies; failure to address widespread water pollution and related issues; and risks to the health and safety of citizens, residents in the care of the state and employees.

By exercising authority to oversee and investigate state agencies and state-funded entities for compliance with their missions and state laws, an independent, nonpartisan Delaware inspector general and staff can, among other things:

    • Ensure that government agencies act in the public interest and conduct agency affairs with honesty and integrity.
    • Investigate and evaluate state agency deficiencies to address questionable practices and to deter or stop waste, fraud, abuse, misconduct, mismanagement and neglect of office.
    • Receive complaints by residents and state employee whistleblowers about state agency officials or agency actions or inactions, investigate them and repair public confidence in the integrity of state agencies and officials.
    • Recommend changes to state laws, policies and practices to help rectify systemic problems.
    • Save state taxpayer money. Inspectors general in other states and the federal government have a history of reducing waste and costly mismanagement errors well in excess of the cost to fund the office.

Because chronic and unresolved problems are counter to Delaware’s ethical and legal directives and warrant oversight, investigation and remediation, DelCOG encourages the General Assembly to pass this legislation establishing the Office of the Inspector General and giving the inspector general the tools and resources necessary to fulfill the oversight mission benefiting all Delawareans.

Finally, DelCOG calls on all concerned citizens and entities throughout the state to contact their state representatives and senators and urge them to pass HB 405 during this Assembly session and urge the governor to sign it! If you aren’t sure who your state legislators are, type in your address at this link to find their names and contact information: legis.delaware.gov/findmylegislator.

Keith Steck is president of the Delaware Coalition for Open Government.

How Patrick Mahomes’s Haircut Demonstrates the Ridiculousness of Occupational Licensing

From: Libertas Institute

For Patrick Mahomes, NFL quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, looking good means playing good. To stay looking his best, the perennial Pro Bowler and Super Bowl-winning quarterback often flies in his personal barber to give him his haircut while on the road during the NFL’s grueling season.

What might not be known about these haircuts is that Patrick Mahomes’s barber, DeJuan Bonds, is likely breaking the law when he delivers haircuts out of his home state.

An example of this occurred when Mr. Bonds was flown to Miami by Mahomes to give him a haircut before Super Bowl LIV.

At this time, in Kansas, Mr. Bonds’s home state, to receive an occupational license one must have completed more educational requirements than in Florida. Kansas required 1,500 hours of training and $180 in fees, while Florida required only 1,200 training hours and $428 in fees. However, Florida did not recognize licensing reciprocity for barbers. This would’ve made it illegal for Mr. Bonds to cut Mahomes’s hair in Florida as he was unlicensed to do so.

This story is an obvious illustration of how arbitrary and silly occupational licenses are. Mr. Bonds is clearly a qualified barber, as shown by one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL trusting him with his hair, so why should he even possibly face criminal penalties for cutting hair in another state?

Thankfully, Mr. Bonds did not face any criminal consequences for his actions. Nobody in Mr. Bonds’s position should ever have to fear criminal penalties for simply serving their clientele by performing a job they are more than qualified to do.

Unfortunately, examples that demonstrate the need to abandon and reform occupational licensing regulations across the country are occurring every day. These examples bar real individuals, simply trying to provide for themselves and their families, from practicing occupations they are qualified to perform.

Delaware Bond: It’s Time… to Improve!

 

From: Kathleen Rutherford, Executive Director

The annual Bond Bill process in Delaware is one ripe for re-development. While the Bond Commission is a bi-partisan effort in design it delivers a very basic product which is missing many explanatory details.  Text with strike-through lines, distinguishes between capital projects of last year and those upcoming for next fiscal year. With this setup, the average Delawarean would have to remember the long list of initiatives previously supported to discern which projects are old and which are truly new. What proves necessary here, are clear statistics to show contrasts in funding for groups of items from one year to the next, which MUST be supported with robust legislation to promote greater transparency around the bidding process for Bond-Bill eligible projects.

While Connecticut and Maryland have similar reporting styles for Bond Bills to that of Delaware, the first state’s City of Wilmington adds a heightened focus on quantitative data with their capital budget reporting. Seen in the publicly available budget books, dollars allocated to principal and interest expenses are noted within the context of the year’s total budget. Additionally, spending is shown for each year and tied to each department’s expenses, clearly stating increases and decreases, while also showing percentages attributed to capital projects. Thus, points of contention center around a short list of staggering increases with arguments made for how to spend funds differently.

Another layer of improvement needed for the nation’s first state is the in-the-background process of contractual reporting. With many of the Bond Bill projects the subject of several bids, minimal information is readily available to the public. Did you know that any money put out with the Bond Bill requires the project to use the prevailing wage? So, if a nonprofit needs $50,000 from the Bond Bill to help with a $150,000 project the entire project rated at the prevailing wage is 25% more expensive. What is published, consists of names, projects, amounts, and dates of approval. A thorough performance evaluation to track how long projects take to complete and how much projects are over or under budget would create better accountability and efficiency in spending taxpayer’s money. Furthermore, the screening of contractors must be more transparent, tagging those with direct political connections as such, so that exclusions are made to prevent backroom deals.

On a federal level, the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs has recently taken this charge to more completely investigate the ties of contractors. In this report, a well-known firm failed to disclose interests in the supporting several pharmaceutical companies and their development of new prescription drugs. With the proper facts established, the consultant’s advice to the FDA should have been thoroughly scrutinized for bias. The new federal bill, a bi-partisan effort recently introduced at the end of March, shows the urgency by which Delaware will benefit from quickly implementing safeguards to additionally protect citizens’ tax dollars spent. And the time is tomorrow and not next year to act, as these inefficiencies which will only continue with each Bond Bill cycle, while capital needs across the state become more dire.

Delaware unemployment rate stalls in April

From: Delaware Business Times 

DOVER – Delaware’s unemployment rate was unmoved for the first time in months in April, while adding 500 net jobs, according to state officials.

April’s job gains add to 2,700 jobs created since February, and Delaware added 300 more job-seekers to continue pushing its record-high labor force, according to the monthly report released Friday morning.

The labor force captures not only workers and those receiving unemployment benefits, but also those in search of work who aren’t receiving assistance. As workers stop seeking work, for a variety of reasons ranging from retirement to child care needs, they are no longer counted as being unemployed in the state.

Delaware’s April unemployment rate remained at 4.5%, and was still significantly higher than the national average, which also stalled at 3.6% last month.

In June, Delaware’s rate was lower than the national average, but the state has since steadily fallen behind in its recovery. It ranked 43rd in unemployment rate among states in April, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. It was tied with New York, but has fallen behind New Jersey and Maryland, which ranked tied for 33rd and 38th at 4.1% and 4.2%, respectively. Pennsylvania continues to have higher rates of unemployment, ranking 47th with a rate of 4.8%. Nebraska and Utah remain tied at the lowest rate of 1.9%, while New Mexico had the highest at 5.3%.

The Delaware Department of Labor’s report is taken monthly during the calendar week that contains the 12th day. The state recorded 22,400 unemployed last month, a decrease of 200 people over March.

The official monthly unemployment figure is created by looking at continuous unemployment insurance claims as well as a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of residents on their employment status. It tracks not only those receiving benefits, but also those who are ineligible, such as terminated employees, those who have resigned and the self-employed, who only became eligible for assistance under a special federal program established under the CARES Act.

The state’s three counties saw differing rates of unemployment in April, with New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties reporting rates of 4.3%, 5.1% and 4.2%, respectively – although those statistics aren’t seasonally adjusted. Wilmington and Dover, the state’s two most populous cities, have seen an even greater impact in job losses, where 6.4% and 6.9% of workers were unemployed, respectively.

The largest monthly job gains came in the education and health care sector, which added 600 jobs last month. It was followed by construction, which added 500; manufacturing, which added 300; trade, transportation, and utilities, which added 300, and government, which added 200.

Leading job losses was the professional and business services sector, which lost 700 jobs, while unsorted industries lost another 300 and financial activities shed 200 jobs.

Fort DuPont bill raises questions about transparency

From Town Square Live

The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill that will put Sen. Nicole Poore on the board of directors of the Fort DuPont Redevelopment and Preservation Corp.

Poore – who represents Delaware City, where Fort DuPont is located – also serves as co-chair of the Joint Committee on Capital Improvements, commonly referred to as the Bond Committee.

The Bond Committee has given millions to the Fort DuPont Corp.; a quasi-public entity under the jurisdiction of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

Allowing her to join the board is wrong, say critics who don’t want to see a state senator involved in deciding how much the corporation will ask for and also deciding how much the state will give them.

In effect, the board on which she sits will benefit from funding she’s responsible for allocating, critics say.

“I believe it’s a conflict to have people who are on the board, who would be requesting the money and spending the money, and then also have them as legislators appropriating the money,” said Jack Guerin, a transparency advocate and publisher of the website, FightDECorruption.com.

petition sponsored by Guerin’s website asking the Senate Ethics Committee to review Poore’s role and remove her as a prime sponsor of House Bill 355 gathered more than 100 signatures.

“As legislators, they would be appropriating funds for the Fort Corporation. As [Fort DuPont] Board members, they would develop and lobby for funding requests, determine budgets, and monitor expenditures,” the petition reads. “The functions of appropriating and spending state funds should remain separate.”

It cites Senate Rule 17, which says “…a member who has a personal or private interest in a measure or bill pending before the Senate shall disclose the fact and may not participate in the debate or vote on the measure or bill.”

House Bill 355, sponsored by House Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst, D-Delaware City, with Poore as Senate sponsor, does not specifically mention Poore, but it does add the co-chairs of the Bond Bill to the Fort DuPont board.

The Bond Bill’s co-chairs are Poore and Rep. Deb Heffernan, D-Bellefonte.

A House Amendment sponsored by Rep. Bryan Shupe, R-Milford, failed in the House of Representatives Tuesday. The amendment would have removed the language in HB 355 that adds Poore to the Fort DuPont board.

Shupe is the CEO of Delaware LIVE News.

Two members – Shupe and Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro, voted yes on the amendment. Thirty-nine voted no.

“This bill creates a permanent structure where individuals are asked to serve two masters, the board of Fort DuPont and the financial health of taxpayers’ money through the Bond Bill, which they also have a responsibility to uphold,” Shupe said.

Shupe said he didn’t file the amendment because he believes Poore would act inappropriately, but to prevent the potential for misconduct in the future. He said he consulted with Deborah Moreau, legal counsel for the State Public Integrity Commission, who told him it was a clear conflict of interest.

“I find this to be a very unfriendly amendment for a couple of reasons,” Longhurst responded. “Number one is that Sen. Poore did have an ethics committee review over in the Senate and they did not see that this was a conflict of interest based on their set of rules.”

If an ethics committee review was conducted in the Senate, those proceedings were not made public.

Poore could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.

Fort DuPont is a historical site that was originally commissioned in 1899 as part of the nation’s coastal defense system.

The state acquired the property in 1947 and built the Governor Bacon Health Center. In 1992, most of the land was transferred to the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to become Fort DuPont State Park.

Among other things, HB 355, which Longhurst and Poore call a “clean-up bill,” restructures the Fort DuPont Redevelopment and Preservation Corp.’s board of directors to replace four directors appointed by the mayor of Delaware City with the two co-chairs of the Capital Improvement Committee.

Longhurst and Poore have long supported the redevelopment corporation, having sponsored the legislation enabling the creation of the agency in 2014.

Since its establishment, the agency has received more than $18.75 million in taxpayer dollars through the Bond Bill. In 2021, the corporation received $3,050,000. During a recent Bond Committee hearing to request funds for fiscal year 2023, the corporation requested $3 million.

HB 355 already passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 35 yes, 3 no and 1 not voting. It then advanced to the Senate where it passed unanimously. Because it was amended in the Senate, it returned to the House for final approval Tuesday, where it passed again, this time by a vote of 39-1 with one member absent.

Fort DuPont has long been the subject of criticism, most recently culminating in the forced resignation of the agency’s executive director, Jeff Randol.

“I have long been a strong supporter of the Fort DuPont Redevelopment project,” Longhurst said in Feb. 2022 after Randol announced his resignation. “I’m also aware of the issues and concerns surrounding the corporation and the Delaware City community, specifically questions about transparency.”

Randol’s compensation included a home on the Fort DuPont property which was renovated to include an elevator, an in-law suite, and a large koi pond. The renovations were paid for by the corporation at an expense of nearly $700,000.

In 2020, the corporation sold a 128-acre parcel of land at a price of $5 million for development as a private RV Campground. A petition to reverse the sale gathered more than 4,000 signatures after critics argued the public had a right to be involved in a decision to sell public lands to a private entity.

In addition to adding the Bond Bill co-chairs to the corporation’s board, HB 355 also replaces

  • The secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services with the director of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership.
  • Three directors elected and appointed by the board with one director appointed by the speaker of the house.

The bill would add:

  • One director appointed by the president pro tempore of the Senate.
  • One director who is a resident of Fort DuPont appointed by the governor.
  • One director who is a resident of Delaware City appointed by the governor.

The following seats would remain the same:

  • One director appointed by the governor to serve as chair.
  • The secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
  • The controller general.
  • The secretary of state.
  • The director of the Office of Management and Budget.
  • The director of the Office of State Planning Coordination.
  • The city manager of Delaware City.

The bill also says, moving forward, the corporation may not pay administrative costs with funds appropriated by the General Assembly.

It clarifies the corporation and its board are considered public bodies.

Guerin said Poore’s sponsorship of the bill would be a conflict of interest even if she didn’t represent Delaware City, where Fort DuPont is located.

The decision to put a co-chair of the Bond Committee on any board which receives funding from the state would be inappropriate, he said.

“I think those functions should be separate, regardless of the legislator’s specific district,” Guerin said.

Global Healthcare Index

From Social Security Resource Center

A look at healthcare systems around the world and in the United States

When thinking about moving to another place, healthcare is one of the most important things on your mind. Access to healthcare and quality of service varies around the world, and even within the United States.

While Medicare provides senior citizens with access to healthcare, a lack of providers can lead to long waiting times for appointments in different states, and healthcare spending can impact standards.

We wanted to find out the best countries in the world and states in the United States for healthcare, so looked at healthcare spending and healthcare providers among other factors.

The Best Countries for Healthcare

1. France – Healthcare score: 8.26/10

France’s universal healthcare system is often referred to as one of the best in the world. With the highest overall spending on healthcare out of all EU member states, it’s no surprise that France ranks in first place on our list.

France has 44.73 hospitals per million residents, higher than any other country we looked at, aside from Australia, Japan, and South Korea. France also has 6.5 physicians per 10,000 of the population, beaten only by Italy.

France’s Logistics Performance Index healthcare score is 20, indicating good access to healthcare and low mortality rates, and healthcare spending per capita amounts to around $5,564.

2. Switzerland – Healthcare score: 7.73/10

Switzerland’s healthcare system is world-famous, commonly regarded as one of the highest quality healthcare systems in the world, renowned for its extensive network of practitioners and clean hospitals.

Switzerland ranks in second place in our study, with a healthcare spending of $7,138 per capita, beating every other country we looked at except the United States.

Switzerland has more hospitals per million residents than most countries on our list, at 32.77, and a better Logistics Performance Index health score than most countries we looked at, taking into account illness rates and access to healthcare.

3. Germany – Healthcare score: 7.65/10

In third place, Germany has one of the best healthcare systems we looked at.

With spending of $6,731 per capita on healthcare, it’s no wonder Germany has such a good reputation for its quality of healthcare.

Germany has 36.42 hospitals per million inhabitants and 4.3 physicians per 10,000 inhabitants. Germany has a Logistics Performance Index healthcare score of 16, higher than most countries on our list.

The Worst Countries for Healthcare

1. Turkey – Healthcare score: 1.14/10

Turkey is the worst country for healthcare out of all countries on our list, scoring 1.14 out of 10 across all factors.

Turkey’s healthcare spending is $1,267 per capita, lower annual spending than every other country we looked at except for Mexico. There are just 1.8 physicians per 10,000 Turkish inhabitants, the lowest out of all countries on our list, and 18.62 hospitals per million inhabitants.

Turkey’s Logistics Performance Index healthcare score is 58.

2. Hungary – Healthcare score: 1.9/10

Hungary’s healthcare system is one of the lowest scoring on our list, over all the factors we looked at.

Hungary spends around $2,170 on healthcare per capita each year and has a Logistics Performance Index health score of 51.

There are just 16.68 hospitals per million inhabitants in Hungary and 3.4 physicians for every 10,000 residents.

3. Latvia – Healthcare score: 2.5/10

Latvia is one of the lowest-scoring countries on our list, scoring 2.5 out of 10 for the factors we considered.

Latvia’s yearly spending on healthcare per capita is $2,039 and its Logistics Performance Index health score is one of the lowest on our list, at 72. Latvia has 31.87 hospitals per million inhabitants, and 3.3 physicians per 10,000 of the population.

Healthcare Rankings