LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Delaware becoming a bargain-basement state

Promises to the middle class — more jobs, less taxes, balanced budgets, etc. — are now the political refrain.

As we look at our state government, politicians are addressing budget shortfalls and lack of revenues. The latest excursions suggest fewer school districts to save money. More than $350 million in debt is supposedly hanging over Delawareans heads. What is our Legislature doing?

The pivotal [state] Senate seat in [a district including] Middletown made national news because it would possibly turn a Democratic majority to a Republican majority. For years, we have heard that we need to have some check on spending — a Republican mantra — but change didn’t happen. From Gov. Carney’s position, he has to be concerned about how to pay for things. Hopefully, Delaware can show the nation how to cooperate and do what’s best for the taxpayers by working in a bipartisan way to reduce our debt.

On the cost side of the ledger, a recent newspaper editorial pointed out we have a retired president of Delaware Technical and Community College who was afforded $390,000 in retirement wages. Are we nuts? OK — he did great things — but he was a “public servant.” We pay him more than Joe Biden gets in retirement as former vice president of the country and, previously, U.S. senator from Delaware! How many general officers served in combat zones, received Purple Hearts for being wounded, and then, never made $390,000? So, maybe the Republicans are right to ask, “Who is watching the public interest in our state budget?”

Let’s discuss the other side of the equation, which is: Where does the revenue come from to pay for our services and infrastructure? Our state has focused a lot on bringing people to our shores from other states as tourists. Sharing is good, but we only have so much to share before we have lost control of our state.

I am in favor of getting a handle on immigration and the continued free use of our state or federal resources. Now, my mother was an immigrant and came through Ellis Island from Holland. My father’s ancestors came from France. Immigrants made this country great. However, if you took the population of China and dumped it into the U.S. — this country would not be so great.

Selfish as it may seem — when you have a taxpaying population within the borders of a state or a country — security of the borders is important to protect scarce resources. So, as we contemplate a Delaware balanced budget — let’s look at who is paying all the bills. At present, it is ordinary people who are Delaware taxpayers. But, who is getting free use of our resources? All the tourists that come to our state.

My suggestion to the Delaware legislators and governor is that we look at a tax structure which taps the tourists who come to our state.

Every Delaware taxpayer pays for the roads here. We pay to have police, and waste disposal and all the services for those folks who enjoy our beaches and visit our parks and recreational facilities.

The tourists bring their money and spend it at our restaurants, motels, and retail outlets. All of these businesses provide workers employment and provide profits to their owners — but the wealthy owners are the biggest beneficiaries. The kinds of worker jobs the tourist industry brings are not middle-income jobs. In most states, sales tax on meals is commonplace to offset some costs. It’s not called a sales tax; it’s called a meals and inn tax.

Highways and infrastructure are underfunded by the tourists. Beach-front housing and other resort communities have low property taxes compared to neighboring states. Gas prices are now lower than New Jersey’s. New Jersey has had a large increase in their gas tax, just recently. New Jersey charges to get on the beach. New Jersey has a sales tax. So does every other surrounding state.

So, do we want to continue to foster unbridled growth in Delaware — due to being the “bargain basement state” where rich people are subsidized by Delaware’s hardworking taxpayers? We are paying taxes to build roads and parks to the profit of business owners who live in big houses with low taxes — a lot of them on the waterfront. I would be in favor of having some taxes which make our visitors pay their fair share. Maybe we could get our border states to pay for a “wall”?

Emmett Venett

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