by James DeChene
This week in Dover the major bill impacting the business community was SB105, which will raise Delaware’s minimum wage to $15. We started off the week hosting a teletown hall with over 50 members joining to hear the latest on timing and strategies, and a number of businesses joined us in Dover to make comment on the bill at the Senate Labor Committee. The stories business leaders shared during the committee meeting were compelling and varied, and included entities ranging from nonprofits to small and medium sized businesses from bakeries to a small business sign maker. Ultimately the bill was released from committee and has now been assigned to Senate Finance Committee due the bill’s significant fiscal note. If you have not taken the opportunity to contact your senator on this bill, I urge you to do so by visiting our Action Network page.
Other bills of note: The passage of a Chamber-backed bill in SB61, which would create a Transportation Infrastructure Investment Fund (TIFF) to help expedite commercial and industrial development projects. Released out of committee was SB74. This bill would make a technical change to the New Economy Jobs credit making it easier and more likely businesses will be able to take advantage of the credit.
Moving forward, there are 7(!) legislative days left this session. DEFAC will meet next Wednesday to announce the final forecast numbers that will dictate how much money will be allocated to the bond and grant-in-aid bills.
members testifying against sb105 on june 12:
by James DeChene
The General Assembly ended work at 8:30 a.m. on July 1. Included was Grant in Aid and capital spending. A bill passed at 4 a.m. to raise minimum wage by $.50 the next two years. The bill did not get a house hearing and was a controversial action decried by House Rs. DSCC supported passage of a bill to sustain the funding for the state’s brownfield’s program. Also passed was a bill mandating sexual harassment training. DSCC worked to amend that bill making it better for business. Look for a more in depth recap in the next issue of Delaware Business magazine.
by James DeChene
The JFC completed work on a $4.3 billion budget this week, leaving roughly $61 million in additional spending between now and June 30th. Restoration of Grant in Aid funding from last year’s cuts are expected (about $8 million), but there will still be a hefty amount left to distribute, which may be sent to the Capital Improvement Committee for an increase in one-time infrastructure spending this year.
Next week, the General Assembly is back in session, and starting the countdown of 13 legislative days left until June 30. They will have their hands full with pending gun legislation, finalizing spending, and working on the remaining bills relevant to the business community including making changes to the WARN Act, Sexual Harassment Training, Minimum Wage, and Biometric Data Privacy. The Chamber hopes the General Assembly will introduce and pass the first leg of a constitutional amendment related to budget smoothing. We will keep you informed on all these issues, and others as they come up.
by James DeChene
Last week Governor Carney and Treasurer Simpler released a bipartisan plan to help address Delaware’s economic boom and bust cycles. Last year’s $400 million budget shortfall highlighted the volatility in our state’s revenues, and this year’s $400 million increase in revenues, while a boon, is an $800 million swing in just one year. For a state with a $4 billion budget, that kind of shift is incredibly significant.
Enter in the budget smoothing idea. Making changes to smooth out these peaks and valleys in our revenue stream has been a Chamber priority since 2015 when DEFAC released its revenue report. This report highlighted how volatile Delaware’s revenues are and provided a blueprint on how to prepare Delaware for the future, putting it on a path toward sustainability. The state has undertaken some of that blueprint by making changes to Delaware’s escheat program and by changing how companies calculate their corporate income tax to a single sales factor. The next part of the process needs to happen now! A constitutional amendment, the first leg of which needs to be passed this year, would help create a true rainy day fund to be used in times of need, and added to in good times. In fact, the Joint Finance Committee itself voted this week to defer $46 million of this year’s revenue to future spending—exactly the way the budget smoothing process would be utilized.
The benefits to budget smoothing are good for businesses, who won’t be subject to knee jerk reactions to raise money fast to balance a budget through tax and fee increases. It also helps Delaware’s nonprofits who receive Grant-in-Aid funding better plan year to year instead of facing last minute cuts in the down years and hoping for their replacement in the up years.
With revenues projected to be close to $500 million this year above last year’s budget, the time is ripe to make improvements to Delaware’s future. There’s no negative impact to funding, or to this year’s budget, and the case is strong to act now to plan for an uncertain future.
by Mark DiMaio
In 2017, we invited Chamber members to participate in a survey to gauge their view of Delaware's economic health, and provide input on policy priorities. Listed below are the top four, along with ways the Chamber is addressing them.
1. Economic Development
The Chamber is dedicated to promoting an economic climate that strengthens the competitiveness of Delaware businesses and benefits citizens of the state.
2. Cost of Health Care
The Chamber recognizes the growing problem surrounding health care costs.
3. Government Spending
We will continue to advocate for structural changes to Delaware’s budget. Delaware needs fiscal policies that foster business growth and advance the state’s long-term economic future.
4. Education Reform (K-12)
Improving education outcomes is a key factor in developing a skilled workforce and attracting new business to Delaware.
by James DeChene
The December labor report was recently released and shows that in 2016 Delaware had a net increase of 350 new jobs over the course of the year, and 2017 is looking to be the same, though there may even be a slight net loss for the year. The January report will reflect what truly happened in 2017, but odds are it won’t be pretty. Surrounding states have seen higher growth than Delaware: Maryland at 2%, Pennsylvania and New Jersey at over 1% - while we are shrinking, they are growing.
This week, members of the Joint Finance Committee started their budget process. Over the next five weeks, members will review agency budgets and various funding requests, including Grant in Aid, and will work to craft a spending plan using the Governor’s recommended budget as a starting point. While forecasted revenues show a 6% increase over last year’s, next year’s growth number is back under 2%. The challenge will be for legislators to be spendthrifts during a time of increased revenues, and planning for the out-years where spending obligations will continue to outgrow revenue. Not an easy task in an election year. More info to come as it develops.
Legislators returned to Dover this week. Among items passed, the General Assembly included extending reporting deadlines for the Taskforces on the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana and on School Redistricting. Expect reports to come later in the session.
Also passed this week was a bill creating a committee dedicated solely with how Grant in Aid funding will be administered in the future. Calling for the establishment of a review process, and creating metrics to measure success, the committee will work in conjunction, but separately from JFC to distribute Grant in Aid. Next week will be Governor Carney’s State of the State Address on January 18.
by James DeChene
As widely reported, the FY2018 budget passed with a mix of new revenue and a number of expenditure cuts and other reductions. The ratio was about 48% new revenue ($182.7 million) and 52% cuts ($195.1 million), roughly meeting Governor Carney’s goal of a 50-50 split to fill a budget gap of $377.8 million.
The new revenues are fairly easy to account for: increasing the corporate franchise tax ($116.1 million), raising the alcohol excise tax ($5.2 million), raising the tax on tobacco products ($11.9 million), and raising the realty transfer tax ($45.6 million), changes to insurance policy charges ($4.6 million) and one-time special funds ($3 million).
Tax cuts, and reductions of proposed increases, came from, among other things:
Simply put, nothing contained in the revenue package is designed to be a fix for Delaware’s structural issues, and the list of funding issues the state faced this year only increase next year, including:
The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce believes in the time available between now and the end of 2017 should be focused on discussions and planning on how to address these issues in the next part of legislative session. Waiting to solve budget crises with a complicated series of steps, such as the removal of itemized deductions, or looking for new, last minute, sources of revenue makes for ill-formed policy. The ability to have in-depth discussions regarding the impacts of tax increases and spending cuts will go a long way to helping set Delaware on a path to prosperity.
by James DeChene
The General Assembly finished out, for the first time, in what is called “extraordinary session” early Monday morning by passing a budget, a revenue package to pay for it, grants-in-aid, and the bond bill.
Some of the highlights from the last few days in Dover include:
Also of note was the passage of a number of State Chamber priorities, which provides good news for our members. They include:
An important item to note: None of these increases are structural changes or work to address Delaware’s long term revenue and spending issues. Many of the same issues the General Assembly faced this year remain, with the added complication of next year being an election year. It remains to be seen the impact this year will have on future budgets, but the expectation at this point is that next year will be another painful year.
by James DeChene
The 148th General Assembly closed out its session in the early hours of July 1st with its mandated legislation, notably the budget, bond bill and grants in aid, finalized.
There were a few notable pieces of legislation important to economic development this year that passed, namely:
In order to provide the bulk of the shortfall funds required in bond and grants in aid specifically, budget writers were forced to raid funds, rely on inversions from unspent accounts and to restrict new program spending to cover, including using the $6 million Governor Markell set aside to help cover redistricting costs associated with the Wilmington Redistricting plan. The main takeaway from the ending this year was that next year, especially the budget, will be difficult.
Issues for Next Year:
Economic Development – Coastal Zone Modernization, this year the State Chamber raised awareness of the need to modernize the Coastal Zone Act, specifically for sites located north of the C&D Canal to make Delaware more competitive with surrounding states to create jobs here. The issue gained no traction in the General Assembly this year, despite a broad coalition of businesses and business groups calling for action. The State Chamber, along with other coalition members, will continue the process into next year with the hopes of legislation passing.
Budget and Tax Policy – The State Chamber’s Tax Committee is working this summer to help draft recommendations for the next governor to promote pro-growth policy for Delaware. With DEFAC projecting low revenue growth for the next few years, the time is ripe to review how Delaware collects and spends taxpayer dollars.
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.