by James DeChene
Legislators in Dover started their work week Tuesday with the news that revenue projections from DEFAC had once again fallen, with Monday’s report showing a $21.6 million projected shortfall. As a result, money allocated to Grant in Aid and to the Bond Bill was reduced approximately 40% from what Governor Markell had proposed in his recommended budget. The operating budget was finalized by the Joint Finance Committee this week, and now the final Bond and Grant in Aid meetings can start their wrap up into next week.
Also this week:
The House passed HB 396, nicknamed “The Rocket Docket”, which would allow developers of certain projects pay a fee to expedite their review processes through the counties. It now awaits action in the Senate.
Debate in the Senate stalled on HB 308, a bill that would modify worker’s comp exclusivity in work related, employee auto accidents. That bill will resume debate next Tuesday.
The State Chamber testified against a bill mandating contractors, and their subs, have apprentice training programs in place prior to bidding on all state funded projects. Currently the state does not provide approved apprentice training programs for nearly half of the 26 recognized trades, leaving questions as to how any contractor could bid work for those jobs. The legislation also boxes out established, qualified companies due to their size if they do not have the operating budget to constantly take on apprentices. The bill was released from House Labor Committee and awaits action in the House.
Next week will be the last of the 148th General Assembly. Stay tuned for updates on final budget language, last minute movement on bills and the end of session wrap up.
State Senator Karen Peterson announced her retirement this week, to be effective immediately after the end of the 148th General Assembly, July 1st. With a candidate filing deadline of July 12th, those wishing to run face a tight time frame to announce, file and mount an effective campaign.
This week several bills of interest to the business community were acted on. HB 327, the Crowdsourcing Bill, passed the Senate and now awaits Governor Markell’s signature. The bill would allow for Delawareans to invest in startup companies, and these companies can raise up to $1 million. State Chamber supported legislation (HB 418) to correct a funding calculation issue for the Workforce Investment Board training fund was released from the House Labor Committee. It will go to a House floor vote soon. Legislation involving hospitals and care givers was released from the House Health Committee still containing a Chamber opposed amendment stripping liability protections for hospitals where upon discharge the lay caregiver of the discharged patient makes a mistake in care resulting in patient injury. With 6 days remaining this legislative session, and one more DEFAC meeting left to firm up the budget, expect much more legislation to be worked.
Louis L. Redding City/County Building
800 N. French Street
Wilmington, DE 19801-3537
phone: (302) 576-2140
fax: (302) 571-4071
We are pleased to invite you to attend the City to Work Job Fair. Please mark your calendar now to join us on Wednesday, September 7, 2016, for this opportunity to recruit leading candidates in all fields. The job fair will be held at the Louis L. Redding City/County Building from 10am-5pm.
The purpose of this event is to connect you, the employer, with potential employees – our residents. Our residents are an educated, talented and skilled workforce. City to Work is our way of connecting Wilmington residents to employable opportunities while also reducing the cost of businesses to advertise vacant positions. The City of Wilmington hosts a FREE job platform to leverage social recruiting for locally based companies. Please visit Wilmington.TweetMyJobs.com to register your business and post your job openings at no cost.
We look forward to seeing you at the upcoming job fair. You will be provided table space and chairs for your business display (if needed). Let us know if you have any other needs including access to electrical outlets or signage upon confirming your attendance. Please confirm your attendance to Edythe Pridgen at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, August 19, 2016.
City to Work Job Fair
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Louis L. Redding City/County Building
800 North French Street
Wilmington, Delaware 19801
Councilman Darius J. Brown
Third Disctrict, Wilmington City Council
On April 11, 2016, White House officials in Washington launched the Fair Chance Business Pledge, which represents a call-to-action for all members of the private sector to improve their communities by eliminating barriers for those with a criminal record and creating a pathway for a second chance.
Click here to read the Fair Chance Business Pledge.
by James DeChene
Legislators returned to Dover this week working to finalize the remaining bits of business, including the budget, prior to adjourning at the end of the month. Congratulations are in order for Representative Debbie Hudson (R-Fairthorne) and Senator Brian Bushweller (D-Dover) for winning this year’s Small Business Guardian award presented at the State Chamber’s End of Legislative Session Brunch.
Of note this week, was an economic development bill (HB 396) that would streamline the permitting process for any industrial or office project (but not residential or commercial) that did not require a rezoning and would be greater than a certain size (75,000 square feet or would create at least 60 permanent jobs). A special expedited review process would be made available for a fee that would guarantee review and comments from the County within 2 weeks from the initial plan submission, and review and comments within 2 weeks from final plan submission.
There would still need to be a Planning Board hearing, and review by State agencies through PLUS (Preliminary Land Use Service), and this new, expedited process would signal a real commitment by the counties to work with major new employers and demonstrate that the State is serious about economic development and putting an end to what is perceived as an interminable review process that does not compare favorably with surrounding jurisdictions.
The State Chamber testified in support of the bill, which seeks to replicate successes Middletown has seen with companies like Amazon and Johnson Controls, which now goes the House floor for a vote.
by James DeChene
The Mercatus Center at George Mason University released their Ranking the States by Fiscal Condition 2016 report, which compares the 50 states and Puerto Rico, and Delaware was ranked 38th (last year Delaware was ranked 30th). The study ranks a state’s fiscal health based on short- and long-term debt and other key fiscal obligations, such as unfunded pensions and healthcare benefits. Delaware’s fiscal solvency was based on information in five separate categories: cash solvency, budget solvency, long-run solvency, service-level solvency and trust fund solvency.
Unfortunately, Delaware was considered a “big mover.” According to the study:
To be considered a “big mover,” a state must have shifted position by more than five spots between the 2015 and 2016 editions (which use the latest available data, from fiscal years 2013 and 2014, respectively). A change in ranking of five or fewer places is not considered a significant change in the underlying metrics. For the most part, states’ overall fiscal performance remained relatively constant. Only Delaware and Iowa dropped significantly in the overall ranking of fiscal condition.
On a short-term basis, Delaware has between 1.90 and 3.23 times the cash needed to cover short-term liabilities. Revenues cover 98 percent of expenses, producing an operating deficit of $195 per capita. On a long-run basis, Delaware has a negative net asset ratio of −0.03, and long-term liabilities account for 51 percent of total assets. Debt totals $3.02 billion. On a guaranteed-to-be-paid basis, unfunded pension liabilities are $8.03 billion, and other postemployment benefits (OPEB) add a further $5.66 billion in unfunded obligations.
This study dovetails with what the State Chamber, and others, have been warning of for the last few years. While our short-term obligations are currently covered, Delaware’s long-term fiscal health is seriously compromised. Study after study shows that without significant structural changes to the budget, how revenue is collected, and how that money is spent, Delaware faces a crisis situation in the near term.
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.