Brian Bushweller, State Senator

17th District of Delaware

January, 2017

Things to Watch For In the 149th General Assembly

 Every January in odd numbered years, Delaware starts a new General Assembly.  And, with each new General Assembly, there are both new and leftover issues to be debated and resolved.

The following is a small sample of the issues the Legislature will be facing when we return to work on January 10.

            State Budget.  Here we go again.  Every year since the Great Recession, Delaware has faced a shortfall of revenue.  Tax collections have fallen short of anticipated expenses.  We have solved that problem with a mix of tax increases, spending cuts, programs cuts and budget transfers, all designed to meet our obligation to balance the budget each year.  At this point, we have pretty much exhausted all the options but are again faced with an estimated $167 million shortfall for Fiscal Year 2018.  (FY 2018 begins on July 1, 2017.)

Further cuts now will dig deep into basic programs that are important to just about everyone.  To avoid that, the General Assembly will likely consider additional tax increases.  We will also consider proposals to shift costs to county and municipal governments and to school districts.  Of course, to the extent we do that, we are forcing those governments to either cut into their programs or raise taxes themselves.

At the same time, we are still seriously damaging the ability of our casinos to stay in business – to continue providing significant revenue to the State – to continue providing more than 2,000 good jobs right here in Kent County.  At some point, we have to understand that one reason why the State faces the budget challenges it does is that we simply take too much from the casinos.  The fact is that instead of taking so much, if we took less now, we would not only protect those Kent County jobs, but we would get more revenue in the future.

Minimum wage increase.  It is likely that proponents of a higher minimum wage will push for another increase.  Delaware’s minimum wage is already higher than the federal minimum wage.  Historically, we have enacted increases every 5 to 6 years.  The last raise was implemented on June 1, 2015, only 19 months ago.  Proponents say it’s time for another raise.  Opponents say small businesses haven’t yet fully absorbed the last raise.

Right to Work.  Look for proposals to introduce the idea of Right to Work in Delaware.  RTW makes it illegal to require union membership even when workers have voted in favor of the union.  Proponents say it will encourage new business investment in Delaware.  Opponents say it is just an attempt to destroy unions.

Legalize marijuana.  Legalizing the personal, “recreational” use of marijuana is gaining favor across America.  Expect to see such a proposal here at home this year.

Special Election.  When Senator Bethany Hall-Long is sworn in as Lt. Governor in January, the Senate will be tied between Republicans and Democrats, ten to ten.  A special election will be held in February to fill her unexpired Senate seat.  Obviously, whichever party wins that election will control the Senate, eleven to ten.  Democrats have controlled the Senate for forty-four years, since 1972.