LETTER TO THE EDITOR: What’s really happening with Delaware employees

Please allow me to share my thoughts on the upcoming budget process that is about to unfold in Delaware. I reside in Milford and own a house there, a house I would like to keep, a house that I worked all my life to get and one that I am proud of.

As a state of Delaware employee for over 15 years, it has been my pleasure to serve the citizens of Delaware in a position that provides vital support to public safety. I have received numerous accolades for my performance and have often eschewed financial gain, to stay on the path of public service.

This year, I had the pleasure of having my health care costs raised, in addition to watching my property taxes increased by over 50 percent. On the upcoming financial year, I am looking at the choice of losing my doctor, or paying double per month for the “luxury” of staying with him. Not per visit, but per month. While the proposed budget isn’t out yet, the writing is on the wall. Once again, the goal will be to balance the budget on dedicated state employees and those who have worked hard and finally achieved the goal of home ownership. I would like to take a moment to discuss my feelings on these two points.

1. There has been constant reduction of state employees’ compensation since 2009, and it is deteriorating the services that Delaware is able to provide. We are losing people who have tremendous technical knowledge, as well as dedication to Delaware.

Anyone who is retirement-eligible is rapidly left with little choice but to leave state service. Good examples are those that can retire right now, find a job that actually pays them more, and after leaving state service, they have given themselves a 25- to 50-percent raise.

Another class of employees being impacted is those new to state service. They come in less competent and experienced than in previous years, and are much less likely to stay due to increased workload, reduced appreciation, stagnant wages, rising health care costs and a pension plan which has been changed at will, for those with less than 10 years of service — making the allure of higher salaries with almost the same health insurance, in the private sector, all the more appealing to our employees. This is a path to ruin.

2. It appears that Gov. Carney has a problem with property taxes. It seems that people are selling their houses out of state and moving to Delaware for lower property taxes. I believe this to be true. But is that the answer?

Raise the property taxes of all homeowners, the ones who have grown roots here and are valuable members of the community — the ones who didn’t have a million-dollar home in Jersey to sell, and then, come to Delaware and take advantage of our tax structure. If it is believed these should be taxed at a higher rate, so be it. They have the savings to laugh at such an increase.

We, the ones who do not have the luxuries of a capital gains exemption, are the ones who will bear the heaviest burden. How is this fair to us? Oh, and let’s not forget about those moving to Delaware to take advantage of the fact Delaware will provide just about anything for their special-needs children to get services under the guise of education, amounting to well over $100,000 per year in some cases.

Why should that fall on those that already reside in Delaware? How about a cross-state capital gains tax for these people? How about it cost them, the ones with the money instead of those without it?

In conclusion, the key argument Gov. Carney makes about tax disparity is genuine. But he is making it in the wrong place. Let’s take a look at these numbers, when you want to talk about unfair. New Jersey sales tax: 6.875 percent; Maryland sales tax: 6 percent; and Pennsylvania sales tax, 6 percent; Delaware, 0 percent.

Every other state offers a fair way of sharing the burden, but not Delaware. There is the disparity, there is the issue. Does anyone really think that a 2.5-percent sales tax will keep people from coming to Delaware to shop? No way! Plus, this tax would spread the burden over everyone, not just those who have a home and are already responsible for all the taxes that provide funding to their local school district.

If we really are looking to be fair, this needs to be addressed. Please don’t continue to keep shaking the change out of the state employee/homeowner piggy bank. I promise you, if you shake it long enough, you are going to break it. Step up, Gov. Carney; do what is right.

Kevin Eickman

EDITOR’S NOTE: Four other states besides Delaware have no statewide retail sales tax: Alaska, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon (in Alaska, some local jurisdictions impose local sales taxes; Montana does not collect a statewide sales tax, but communities that cater to recreational visitors can assess resort and local-option taxes of up to 3 percent; New Hampshire collects a tax on restaurant meals and lodgings, as well as on car rentals).

Delaware has a “use” tax of 2.2 percent on rental goods that works like a retail sales tax, and a gross-receipts tax paid by merchants that, with other overhead, must be incorporated into final selling prices — therefore, it often is referred to as a “hidden sales tax.”

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