Delaware state spending questions not looming large this year

DOVER – Some notes and quotes between headlines and deadlines …

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State Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover, got an ovation and a laugh Thursday at the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon.

He was asked if there will be a call for tax increases this year. Sen. Bushweller said the new ones should not come without reconsideration of some others recently enacted.

“There are a couple of taxes we’ve raised over the past couple of years that I think should be repealed,” he said. “One is the real estate transfer tax …”

Before he could go on, the business crowd roared with approval.

“And I’m not even running for re-election,” he joked.

“ … The other is the decrease in the senior property tax credit from $500 to $400.”

At the end of the session last summer, another one percent was added to the transfer tax as lawmakers wrestled with the budget gap. The estimated revenue from the change was $45 million for this year.

Additionally, seniors were accorded less of a break on property taxes in the budget wrangling.

Sen. Bushweller, who has served the Dover-Camden area since 2008, is not seeking another term.

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The tax increase question was an interesting one, not so much for the responses, but because the state – for the first time since the Minner administration – isn’t wrestling with a “budget shortfall.”

For years, it seems like we have been reporting on the same legislative hand-wringing about the economic forecast.

The largely Republican panel of legislators Thursday all suggested the recently proposed tax specifically for water-related projects was a bad idea.

Rep. Trey Paradee, D-Cheswold said he was skeptical. “In 10-20 years, we will have another trust fund with money looking for projects, rather than projects looking for money,” he said.

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We heard the stances of several of Kent County’s state senators and representatives Thursday at the luncheon on tax increases, legalization of marijuana, minimum wage, prevailing wage, state employee benefits and right-to-work zones.

Certainly, we would love readers’ feedback on the issues in the General Assembly, including those outlined in reporter Matt Bittle’s front page story today.

Send letters to newsroom@newszap.com. Or post comments under our stories at www.DelawareStateNews.net.

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State Sen. Gary Simpson, R-Milford, is also winding down. A few weeks ago, we learned that he would not seek re-election.

During Thursday’s question-and-answer session, Sen. Simpson mentioned that the 15- to 20-percent higher wage rates for state projects has long been on his mind as a priority.

“This is my 20th year in the senate and this has been my number one goal every year – to eliminate prevail wage,” he said.

“Businesses would probably fail if they had to do this,” he said. “Yet the government is mandating this higher fee on us as taxpayers and it’s ridiculous.”

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The balance of the Senate tilts by just one in favor of the Democrats. No doubt, one of the stories of the 2018 election season will be control of the Senate.

In addition to the seats of Sen. Bushweller and Sen. Simpson, there will also be an opening in Wilmington area with the retirement of Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, a Democrat.

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During Thursday’s luncheon, Sen. Bushweller tossed out a compliment on the Thursday front page headline, “Dazed and confused,” a nod to the stoner movie starring Matthew McConaughey.

Mr. Bittle came up with it after writing up the chaotic end to a marijuana legalization committee meeting. Apparently, the committee thought it had voted to send a report forward to the legislature, when in fact they no votes won. Well, it seems it wasn’t necessary and the report may be sent along anyway.

Fitting headline, indeed.

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Last week, there were a number of people talking about an early spring. what with the peepers making so much noise in the woods and the milder temperatures.

Friday gave us a good does of March reality. Just curious — what are your favorite of signs of spring? Opening day of sports, blooming daffodils or tulips, the opening of the Italian ice stand?

One that caught my eye a few days ago was a note about the opening of Sambo’s in Leipsic. You can get back to picking crabs on March 28.

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The Delaware State News has enjoyed some new video news features, produced by Polytech High School senior Nia Pope, in the past few weeks. Be sure to check out highlights from the “African American History Live” event at the Sankofa Center in Dover last month in the From the Editor section at DelawareStateNews.net.

Additionally, Miss Pope offered a nice feature on at Citywide Black History Month Celebration’s art exhibit at the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover.

Visit www.DelawareStateNews.net/editor to see the videos.

The Delaware State News was among the events’ organizers. The next big event of the newspaper is the second Delaware Outdoor Expo on March 10 at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington. You can get more information and tickets at www.DelawareOutdoorExpo.com.

Reach editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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