Monday, March 16, 2009

"Reality Check" Report

I went to Milford this evening to attend what may have been the last "Reality Check" budget presentation of the season. These are the sessions in which Governor Markell, or his top folks, present the hard truth about Delaware's budget situation to us, the people of the state, and ask for our ideas.

Governor Markell was not able to attend this evening. He's still sitting shiva for his father, who passed away a few days ago. Agriculture Secretary Ed Kee filled in, and was joined by the Milford area's State Senator Gary Simpson and State Representatives George Carey and Bob Walls. Kent County Levy Court Commissioner Eric Buckson was there, and I am fairly sure there was some Milford School District officials as well.

There wasn't really new news from this evening. We're all well aware of how dire our situation has gotten. We face a large budget deficit in the current fiscal year and a huge hole next year. And those holes are only getting deeper according to reports from today's meeting of the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council, which officially estimates how much revenue we'll have to work with.

I wanted to attend at least one of these so that I could hear the reactions of people in the room to the news, and hear the ideas of those people. Here's some of what I heard:
  • "All taxes are on the table, except for a sales tax." That was Sec. Kee paraphrasing the Governor when asked about adding a sales tax in Delaware. Some of the elected folks offered light-hearted reminisces about being told to "sit down and shut up" when they broached sales taxes years ago. They also noted, more seriously, the risk that a sales tax would pose to Delaware retailers, who now depend on shoppers taking a break from the sales taxes in surrounding states.
  • Delaware's "Rainy Day Fund," the small part of each budget that is required to be held in reserve, won't really help. It is only $180 million -- a small part of the hole -- and would have to be repaid, by law, within a year.
  • One gent's prepared list of ideas:
    - Close the toll by-pass at the canal bridge
    - Privatize grass cutting along the highways
    - Privatize the Indian River Marina
    - Privatize the state hospitals

  • Another gent called for an expansion of the use of retired professionals in volunteer projects such as mentoring small businesses.
  • One fellow said that he has a home in New Hampshire, near water, for which he pays a property tax of around $10,000 a year and that that tax has not driven him away. He suggested we look to how New Hampshire manages to do that.
  • The (pre-today's-DEFAC) hole estimate for next year comes out to about $2,000 household. It was suggested that many of us might be willing to "write that check." Or, maybe we can find 100 rich people to donate a million each.
  • That led to memories of WWII and war bonds. "Why not sell savings bonds?"
As things wrapped up, Senator Simpson and Representative Carey, both Republicans, made a point of praising Governor Markell, a Democrat, for his bipartisan approach to the budget problem and openness to working together. They pointed out that Sec. Kee is one of several republicans in the Markell cabinet.

Representative Walls, a Democrat, added this: "I am not for Democrats or Republicans; we have got to work together."



Anonymous said...
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Mike Mahaffie said...

I have taken an unusual step and deleted a comment. It began with:

Sir, may I suggest you consider a "reality report" on the first homosexual mayor of Salisbury, Maryland, a frequenter of Rehoboth's gay beaches?

And it continued with a lengthy attack on that mayor.

Aside from the fact that I categorically reject the premise of the arguments in this comment, and consider it a base, hate-filled attempt at a political hack-job, the larger problem is that it had nothing what-ever to do with the post it purported to comment on. It is a political issue in another state.

It does not belong here.

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