In the 14th District: Ennis, Pace respond in issues survey

Candidates survey

In the leadup to Nov. 8’s election, the Delaware State News will be running questionnaires from various candidates.

For more survey answers from candidates and election news, visit our Vote 2016 section.

14th Senate District (Smyrna)

Bruce Ennis

Bruce Ennis

Bruce C. Ennis, Democrat

Office seeking: State Senate, 14th District

Age: 77

Occupation: Retired — Fulltime legislator

Family: Wife — Grace, daughters Cynthia and Sandra

Elective experience: State representative 1982-2007, state senator 2007-present

Carl Pace, Republican

Carl Pace

Carl Pace

Office seeking: Delaware State Senate – 14th District

Age: 35

Occupation: Delaware business owner

Family: Wife — Jade, daughters — Emily & Erica

Elective experience: Served on many boards and elected offices in various organizations and nonprofits

1. What would be your top priority in this office?

Ennis: Provide a better environment for job growth and helping to boost the economy.

vote-logo-2016Pace: My top priorities include: public safety, economic reform, education reform and health care, among others.

2. If you could change one state policy or law, what would it be?

Ennis: I would not do so at this time.

Pace: I would eliminate red light cameras. These cameras, while developed to do good things, have caused numerous accidents resulting in both personal injury and property damage. Additionally, there are concerns about the legality of the ticket being issued by an authority other than a police agency.

3. Do you support raising the minimum wage?

Ennis: I support incrementally raising the state minimum wage. Delaware’s minimum wage is $8.25, while the federal minimum wage is $7.25. If the federal wage had been raised to reflect inflation, in today’s economy it would be $10.90 hourly. Delaware’s living wage is insufficient to support a family of two with a two bedroom apartment. To allow for housing costs, the minimum wage would have to be $21.09 hourly. I supported Senate Bill No. 39, which would have raised the minimum wage by 50 cents per year for four years to $10.25 hourly.

Pace: Raising the minimum wage is not the answer to reducing poverty. With the increase in wage will come an increase in products and services. Thus, once the product and service increases take effect, those making the new minimum wage will find themselves in the same financial scenario they are currently in now. Additionally, this will result in many employers laying off employees, as well as total elimination of many positions. There is a way to reduce poverty and increase wages without increasing minimum wage. Upon my election this will be addressed in my economic reform plan and I will help Delawareans with a realistic strategy to improve their financial scenario.

4. How can the state best create jobs?

Ennis: Government does not create jobs but can promote an atmosphere to encourage job growth and businesses. Over the last several years we have cut red tape for businesses as a result of over regulation and onerous laws. This effort will continue. New regulations are being required to provide an impact provision and laws are being reviewed to determine if they are necessary or need modification.

Pace: This is a serious concern across the state of Delaware. In my economic development plan, we are focused on creating not just “jobs” but “careers” in Delaware. When large corporations look for a home they look for a multitude of factors, such as active and adequate infrastructure, public safety and quality education for their employees and families, among other things. As initially stated, all of these things are priorities for me upon election. Additionally, small business is critical to new careers in Delaware. Our state needs to focus on helping entrepreneurs to establish their “American Dream.” In doing this, we will create jobs throughout the state. Currently it appears that we make it complicated for Delawareans to open small businesses. Careers and jobs in Delaware are a top priority for me and I look forward to putting a major reduction in unemployment rate here in Delaware.

5. Would you vote for legislation reinstating the death penalty?

Ennis: Yes. The Aug. 2 ruling by the Delaware Supreme Court striking down the death penalty was by a narrow margin and certainly not representative of the views of a majority of my Senate district. I support reinstitution of the death penalty for those criminals who perpetrate mass murders of innocent people in churches, schools and workplaces, and for other acts of terrorism and heinous crimes. The punishment must meet the crime. A recent survey conducted by the University of Delaware showed support for the death penalty.

Pace: I have been involved in the law enforcement community for years and I have a multitude of family and friends who are in are military branches. I have personally witnessed and heard horrific stories of vicious crimes committed against innocent adults and children, crimes so vile and indecent it cannot be put in words. Too often these same criminals are repeat offenders that cannot be rehabilitated and will be forced to live the remainder of their lives in prison in solitary confinement. For those that are beyond rehabilitation and have committed horrible crimes against other humans I am in favor of capital punishment. For these rare cases I would vote for legislation to re-instate the death penalty.

6. Should the state make changes to its laws on marijuana?

Ennis: Not at this time. While support is growing in some areas for legalized marijuana, according to surveys, more study should be done on effect of such a change in the law. As you are aware, medical marijuana with a prescription is now permitted and the offense for possession of small amounts of marijuana is now a civil offense. Some legislators are supportive of legalization for the tax revenue that it is expected to create.

Pace: As many states around the US have been legalizing marijuana much more information about it has become readily available. Studies have proven that as a public health risk that marijuana is significantly less dangerous than alcohol, which is legal in Delaware. Having said this, I would like to see the repercussions both positive and negative on the states that have legalized marijuana before making a final decision for Delaware. Pending positive outcomes in other states I would not be opposed to changing laws on marijuana in Delaware. It would create a new industry providing jobs and revenue while reducing crime and making our streets safer.

7. Should the state lower the tax rates on the casinos, do nothing, or take some other step to provide relief?

Ennis: Yes. I support reducing the current taxes on gaming and video lotteries. The gaming tax is 29.4 percent, the video lottery tax is 43.5 percent. The same tax rate in Atlantic City is 8 percent, and in Las Vegas it is 6.75 percent. With competition from casinos in neighboring states, jobs of gaming employees will be lost in Delaware if our tax rates remain high, and the state share of gaming revenue will continue to be reduced or non-existent. We will either pay now or pay later.

Pace: The casinos should be afforded the same aid and tax credits that other businesses in the state are afforded. I am not in favor of any additional “bailouts”.

8. What changes would you make to the Department of Education?

Ennis: The department should be directed to place more resources in the classroom. More emphasis should be placed on teaching by qualified teachers rather than on high-stakes test scores. Attention should also be directed to early learning and special-need students. The largest percentage of student growth this year in our schools is in the area of special-needs students.

Pace: As an elected official our education system will be a key issue for me. Delaware is fourth in the nation for taxes spent per student. However, we are producing results that put us at the bottom of reports compared to the nation. We must get the money we spent to the teachers and the students in the classroom where the money is best spent. Education reform is a priority for me and will be one of the first issues addressed upon being elected to office.

9. Does the state spend too much, too little or the right amount?

Ennis: With over one-third of the state budget dedicated to public education, I would like to answer just enough. However, with the need to further support our early learning and special needs students, as well as the recommendation for Wilmington school consolidation, it is very likely that more funding will be required.

Pace: Our regular unbalanced budget lends a person to believe that we are spending too much. Contrary to statements made by current legislators, there are still a lot of cuts that can be made to the state budget. If a person were to look at the state budget like their personal check book it is obvious that we need to cut back on wasteful spending and become more fiscally responsible.

10. What should be done, if anything, to increase revenue for the state or cut spending?

Ennis: Our goal should be to cut spending, but this is not always possible. Just keeping pace with normal inflation, even without adding new programs, causes costs to increase. We need to place our state budget on a more sustainable basis. We should replace current funding sources that have proven to be unreliable. We have relied too long on gaming revenue, escheat funds and other revenue sources that are no longer predictable or sustainable. In terms of expenditures, we should look closely at the recommendations of the Delaware Expenditure Review Committee in the areas of corrections, education and health care.

Pace: I have realistic suggestions on both ends of this, some to increase revenue without any additional expense to taxpayers and some areas to cut spending. While I could write several pages on both, I will give a couple quick examples. One easy way to increase revenue without increasing taxes would be to auction off all police-seized assets that are legal for civilians to own. Too often policed-seized assets are destroyed at an expense to the tax payers. These auction if done right could result in a large revenue source for the state. One of the many budget cuts I would propose: recently Bruce Ennis co-sponsored a bill that allows someone in prison to change their name from male to female or female to male with the taxpayer picking up the bill for the name change. Those not in prison do not have that same benefit, so why should a prisoner have more rights than a law abiding citizen. Moreover, the taxpayer should not be responsible for picking up the bill for anyone’s name change. We need common sense spending in Dover which I will fight for from day one!

11. Do changes need to be made in the state’s employee health care structure?

Ennis: Obviously, changes will be required in the future. The difficulty is that state employees generally don’t receive pay as high as that offered by private business and have benefitted from the offer of excellent health care coverage. While little has been offered over the years in pay increases, changes in coverage and costs would be a great impact to our employees.

Pace: Delaware is the largest employer in the state. Many state employees that work full time are still eligible for government assistance and their salaries are below poverty levels. The entire state employment system needs review for productivity, employee salaries and the health care benefit structure. I would like to see a full and comprehensive review of state employment to ensure a fair employment scenario for state workers and that the taxpayer is investing well in their state.

12. What should be done to impact the state’s heroin crisis?

Ennis: With efforts in recent years to rein in prescription drug abuse, heroin has become an epidemic and the drug of choice. While law enforcement has already begun to place priority on arresting heroin suppliers rather than the user, additional police resources will be required, which should pay big dividends.

Pace: Heroin is destroying Delaware one family at a time. This is a critical issue which I have many taxpayer friendly solutions to resolving the problem. The very abbreviated version is understanding that currently the taxpayer is paying for those addicted to this awful drug by way of EMS services, the corrections system, mental health and drug counseling among many other ways. We must hit this issue head on with preventative solutions to avoid the back end costs that are all too often repetitive costs.

There are models in other states that do work to prevent the addiction.

Those models in conjunction with new ideas from those in the field of mental health and drug rehabilitation will put a large dent in the heroin crisis.

13. How can the state best continue to fund road and bridge projects?

Ennis: A number of suggestions to fund road and bridge projects were made late last year by a task force. I fully expect some of these suggestions will be presented to the legislature this year for consideration. While I am not in support of the proposed mileage tax, others may be open for a full discussion.

Pace: I have many non-traditional revenue generation ideas that will ensure increased revenues without having to increase taxes to the citizens of Delaware. In addition to these revenue generating ideas we can cut spending in the budget in many areas to ensure that money is allocated to the areas most needed by the taxpayers like manageable, safe roadways and bridges.

14. Anything else?

Ennis: No.

Pace: Upon election to the Delaware state Senate I look forward to being the real voice of the people. The only way to be the real voice is to be active in the communities in which you serve to ensure the needs of the people are heard and relayed down to Dover. We need elected officials with honor, integrity and honesty. I have made a lot of friends and enemies over the years but just being honest. I am not the type of person to be silenced. I stand up for what is right and follow through. Action is the fundamental key to all success!

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