By Mike Quaranta, President, Delaware State Chamber of Commerce
Almost overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic shifted much of our lives online — from education and work to healthcare and retail shopping. And remarkably, our broadband infrastructure performed superbly, helping families across Delaware adapt to these seismic changes.
But many Delawareans are stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide – lacking a home broadband connection for different and sometimes complicated reasons. It’s a problem that needed to be fixed even before the pandemic, and one that has more urgency now.
Although 98 percent of Delaware’s communities are wired for broadband and we have the fastest average internet speeds of any state, only 76 percent of Delaware residents actually subscribe to broadband at home.
Many factors contribute to this broadband “adoption gap.” When unconnected Delaware households are asked why they don’t subscribe, more than 60 percent say they just don’t see the need for, or have any interest in, high-speed internet. Sometimes non-adopters may prefer their mobile service. And one quarter of Delawareans don’t have a computer at home.
To help address this challenge, most major broadband providers have established programs to offer low-cost broadband ($10 to $15 per month) to low-income customers together with crucial digital literacy training and discounted computers to help spark interest. These programs have helped millions of low-income Americans get online over the past decade, including many right here in Delaware. And since the start of the pandemic, many providers have gone farther – opening up Wi-Fi hotspots to the public and even offering free home service for the most vulnerable customers.
Still, we need to better understand why broadband has failed to capture the imagination and interest of so many across our state, despite the widespread availability of subsidized discount programs. This is a critical sociological issue we need to solve.
In addition, in some of our state’s rural, downstate communities, the problem is less about broadband adoption rates than with broadband availability. Longer distances and fewer customers-per-mile make broadband infrastructure cost-prohibitive without public investments.
Here in Delaware, Governor John Carney’s effort to bring wireless broadband to over 127,000 homes and businesses in Sussex and Kent counties was an important step forward. More recently, Delaware’s Department of Technology & Information (DTI) and Department of Education have committed over twenty million dollars of CARES Act funding to help fast-track broadband infrastructure and adoption programs in rural downstate communities.
But like rural electrification a century ago, this rural deployment challenge is national in scope, and requires a national response. This isn’t a problem Delaware should be left to solve on its own; the federal government also needs to step up more.
Congress spent tens of billions over the past decade trying to connect rural America but has made little progress – over 20% of rural Americans still have no access to wired broadband.
The last rural deployment effort launched by the 2009 stimulus bill was half-baked in conception and poorly executed, with billions of taxpayer dollars diverted to build duplicative networks in communities that already had high-speed service, instead of being prioritized for unserved areas.
The federal government’s internal watchdog office criticized the ham-handed effort: “We are left with a program that spent $3 billion, and we don’t really know what became of it,” Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigator Mark Goldstein said at the time.
This fall, the Federal Communications Commission will try again with a new $20 billion effort to deploy broadband in rural communities.
This time, we need to be smarter. Congress needs to focus federal funds where the problem is greatest: areas that currently have no fixed broadband service, including some in Sussex and Kent Counties.
To further buildout rural broadband, we also need to reform the eligibility rules to encourage more competition among broadband builders vying for federal construction contracts. The current, outdated rules, written almost 25 years ago, allow some state and local regulators to steer funds toward their favored providers, instead of those best equipped to get the job done right.
Finally, we need accountability: the Feds should tell us how communities will get needed broadband and in what year – and then set up a system to ensure the goals are met. Too often, pie-in-the-sky rhetoric has been followed by an empty bag of results.
We need to get universal broadband in each and every Delaware community, and get every home to actually sign up. It’s critical for us to compete globally, to grow our local economy, and to address longstanding social and economic inequities.
We can’t afford to wait any longer.
By Katie K. Wilkinson
Chair of the Board of Directors, Delaware State Chamber of Commerce
Chair of the Business Subcommittee, Pandemic Resurgence Advisory Committee
On July 31, the Pandemic Resurgence Advisory Committee (PRAC) delivered its interim report to Governor Carney. The report outlines all recommendations from the three subcommittees: Health, Business and Equity.
In the Business Subcommittee, we focused on five goals:
Our recommendations encompass near-term, mid-term and long-term goals with a laser focus on the need to closely connect the health of Delaware communities, businesses and economy. This is not easy. There is no playbook and no way of knowing if we are right, wrong, or somewhere in between. Communication, accountability, and consistency will be key to a deliberate and concentrated approach to implementing recommendations for the benefit of the Delaware business community that has been hit so hard by this pandemic.
I wanted to thank the many members of the Business Subcommittee for their engagement and input, and specifically thank the three State Chamber members that joined me on the subcommittee – Chris Schell of Schell Brothers, Steve Chambliss of Christiana Mall, and Taryn Dalmasso of Edgewell Personal Care. Their input has been critical.
I encourage everyone to take some time to review the interim report and offer any and all comments that will be considered as we develop the final report in September.
By James DeChene, Armitage DeChene & Associates
The General Assembly gaveled out of session early on July 1, 2020 in what was the earliest ending in recent memory due to what has been an almost indescribable year to date. With little to no drama on the money bills (Budget, Grants in Aid, and Bond) as they were passed on June 29th, the General Assembly was left to close out a few bills on consent agendas.
The Senate said goodbye to retiring Senator Harris McDowell, and the House bid farewell to retiring Representative Quinn Johnson. This means that for next session there will be two new co-chairs for the Joint Finance Committee and both the Senate and House Energy Committees will have new chairs as well.
As the General Assembly came back to session in January, members seemed poised to pass a series of legislation that included increasing Delaware’s minimum wage, expanding worker’s rights, and increasing the role and presence of private and public employee unions. Those bills largely went nowhere, and with the COVID-19 pandemic altering how the legislature would work, those bills were placed on hold until next year.
The same can be said for legislation the business community supported as well. Efforts to invest in clean water infrastructure, building a new high school in the City of Wilmington, modifying the state’s offerings of Association Health Plans and creating new workforce training platforms (more on that later) all took a pause as well.
That said, a number of bills important to the business community were introduced, and some were acted on in the final weeks of this session. They included:
In the midst of three months of uncertainty, countless Zoom meetings with Governor Carney, members and staff from his Administration, the chambers of commerce community, stakeholder groups and others, there were a number of positives that were announced, and work completed ahead of schedule.
The State Chamber has long been an advocate for rural broadband development and adoption. Last year’s announcement of BlooSurf, a project to bring broadband to western Sussex and Kent counties was met with fierce approval. Originally slated to be completed in 18-24 months, the project was able to be completed in just over 12 by using federal CARES Act funds to speed up the building process. In July 2020, 15 towers are set to be completed. Efforts to promote residential adoption of broadband will roll out soon after in preparation for what could be another school year of distance learning. Now children in these communities will be able to be active participants. Similar broadband adoption efforts are taking place in Wilmington with the similar goal of making sure all children have access to distance learning efforts.
For the last year, the State Chamber has pushed for the creation of a workforce training program similar to what has worked with ZipCode Wilmington. A compressed, 40-hour week training schedule focusing on in-demand career paths that will help transition low-skill workers into better paying jobs. While the legislation creating this program was not worked on this year, we continue to work with Governor Carney and his Administration on creative ways to implement such a program, especially in light of the potential permanent job losses related to COVID-19.
Between now and January 2021, when the 151st General Assembly convenes, much will have happened:
There remains a great deal of uncertainty as we enter the second half of 2020. What does remain certain, however, is the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce’s dedication to advocacy on behalf of its members – the business community.
Look for more opportunities in the coming months to hear from experts on the latest trends as the COVID-19 pandemic, and recovery, continue to evolve. Also look for innovative networking opportunities and other creative ways to get your business noticed. For more information, check www.DSCC.com.
Interview by John Riley
Please tell us a little bit about your background and why you focused your naval career on submarines?
I’m a third-generation naval officer, and I’m proud to continue my family’s service. My grandfather flew airships during World War II and my dad flew P-3s during the Cold War. I grew-up planning to join the navy, and I entered the United States Naval Academy after high school expecting to become a naval aviator like my dad and my grandfather.
Fortunately, all midshipmen at the Naval Academy are required to spend several weeks each summer serving in the fleet on what they call “summer cruises”. These cruises are opportunities to spend time with each of the warfare communities in the navy and to learn about them: surface ships, marines, aviation squadrons, and submarines. These summer cruises taught me that I did not actually like flying airplanes nearly as much as I thought I would. Instead, I learned that I was attracted to the submarine community.
I graduated from the Naval Academy in 1998, and over the last 22 years I’m privileged to have served on six submarines and with over 1000 submarine Sailors. I have enjoyed and personally benefited from the opportunity to work alongside these highly capable Sailors, and I hope I have been able to add some value to their lives as well.
What sets the submariner apart from others in the Navy?
One of my Naval Academy summer cruises was on a Sturgeon-class submarine. I remember sitting in the wardroom one day watching a meeting - this would have been one of my first couple of days onboard. The behavior that I observed during the meeting was different from anything I had seen before, and it illustrated for me how the submarine community was unique.
As I recall the situation, an important piece of equipment had broken and about a dozen of the crew’s officer and enlisted submariners had assembled in the wardroom to decide what to do about it. During the meeting one of the Sailors spoke-up with a plan. Everyone listened attentively, and when he finished speaking, they discussed his idea and asked some pointed questions. After some deliberation the Commanding Officer agreed with the plan, and everyone left the wardroom to go execute it. At the end of the meeting I was surprised to see that the Sailor who spoke-up was a Petty Officer Third Class - a junior enlisted Sailor. I was impressed that the others in the wardroom didn’t seem to care that he was a junior Sailor; they just cared about his idea, whether it was a good idea, and how they could all work together to execute it. I was also impressed by the junior Sailor’s confidence and competence, and his willingness to present his idea to the Commanding Officer.
During my remaining time onboard I observed more and more examples of this behavior, all across the submarine. I saw that submariners were smart, competent Sailors who valued independent and critical thinking, problem solving, and results; I saw that their personal interactions were honest and direct, they were appreciative of each other’s ideas and contributions, and while they were respectful of rank and position they were not blinded by it. Overall, I saw that their collective focus - from the most junior Sailor to the Commanding Officer - was simply on working together to safely and effectively operate their submarine and keep it at sea.
I had certainly observed different combinations of these behaviors on my other summer cruises; however, I had never seen all of them together in one place, across all ranks, even down to the most junior Sailor. I recognized that this collective behavior, and the culture that encouraged it, was unique to the submarine community. I enjoyed being a part of it for the few weeks I was onboard, and it convinced me that I wanted to become a submariner.
When did you learn you would be the first commander of the USS Delaware?
I received orders to the Delaware in June 2015. I began the Commanding Officer training pipeline that same month and reported for duty in February 2016.
What was the most challenging aspect of preparing to go to sea for the first time?
Taking a submarine to sea is always challenging, whether it’s the first time or the hundredth time. A submarine, on its own, does not want to go to sea. It just wants to sit at the pier, and when you do take it to sea it is usually not very cooperative. The only thing that really keeps a submarine in line is the Sailors, who exert a massive amount of energy into it and work together to bend the submarine to their common will. Getting a submarine to sea, and keeping it at sea, requires a great deal of collective willpower on the part of the crew.
It is extremely rewarding to do this well - it is rewarding to see a submarine respond to the crew’s energy and willpower, and for the crew to successfully operate in an environment where human beings are not supposed to be able to survive. The feeling of accomplishment that accompanies this is what makes a lot of submariners keep going to sea together.
So an added challenge for a new crew is that they have never experienced the feeling of working together to take their own submarine to sea, or the collective effort required to do it well. It’s hard to simulate this effectively, although we tried very hard by having our Sailors walk-through their respective portions of the underway process, practice the different evolutions we would be performing at sea, and things like that.
How long did you command the submarine and what were your special responsibilities during your tour of duty?
Commander Matthew Horton relieved me as Commanding Officer in November 2019, so my tour was 45 months long - almost four years.
The first Commanding Officer of a new submarine has the unique responsibility to establish the initial command culture on their ship - the collective attitude, behaviors, and overall approach toward submarining. Sailors, like all human beings, learn most of what they know through osmosis - they learn by simply being part of a group and conforming their behavior and attitudes to what they observe around them.
Because of this, the culture of a command transcends any single individual - it drives the positive or negative behavior of every Sailor onboard, and it remains largely intact well after those who originally established that culture have left the command. It takes years and years to correct a negative culture, and until corrected it will ruin entire crews of Sailors. So, I think the first Commanding Officer has a special and unique responsibility to establish a positive command culture.
Can you tell us a little about the roles and responsibilities of the crew and how each prepared for the "sea trial."
The “sea trial” is actually three sequential at-sea periods, ranging in length from a couple of days to about a week. The goal is to fully test the submarine, and every system onboard, to its operational limit.
As I mentioned previously, the crew’s job is to work together to exert their collective energy into the submarine - to bend it to their will and make the submarine conform to the underway plan (or in this case, the three underway plans). To be successful, every Sailor onboard must be able to perform the various individual and team skills that are required for them to do their jobs, and they need to understand how each of their specific jobs contribute to the overall plan. Our goal leading up to sea trials was to simulate the entire underway sequence as best we could and give each of our Sailors as many opportunities as possible learn and practice their individual and team skills.
This was somewhat challenging, because at the same time we also needed to support the final construction and testing sequence for our submarine, and make sure it was ready to go to sea as well. We worked hard with the construction team to make sure we balanced our time effectively, and the basic concept was to walk-through each of the individual and team evolutions as many times as possible so that our Sailors could execute the plan almost without thinking about it. We knew that we needed to build a great deal of resiliency, so that once we were underway, we would be able to focus our attention on the unexpected curveballs that we would likely have to deal with. Our Sailors did a great job taking full advantage of the available training opportunities, and my role was just to protect our time and help communicate the different underway scenarios. Overall, our preparations were extremely successful, and we executed the sea trials sequence very well. I’m proud of our crew’s efforts.
How does the "Virginia class nuclear attack submarine" differ from other submarines in the fleet?
The Virginia-class submarine is the most technologically-advanced submarine in the world. The open source literature will tell you that the Virginia-class incorporates the latest in stealth, intelligence gathering and weapons system technology.
From a personal perspective, all of my previous submarine tours were on Los Angeles-class attack submarines and Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines. My recent tour on Delaware was the first time I had ever served on a Virginia-class submarine, and overall, I was extremely impressed. For example, the layout and integration of the control room provides a level of situational awareness that I did not have on any of my previous submarines. I think Delaware is an extraordinarily capable undersea platform.
Tell us a little about your experience becoming familiar with Delaware and state leaders?
Our first experience with anyone from Delaware was our keel laying ceremony in April 2016, shortly after our first group of Sailors reported for duty. The keel laying is the first of four traditional milestones in the life of a ship (along with christening, commissioning, and decommissioning) and it ceremonially marks the beginning of the new construction process. Dr. Jill Biden, who is Delaware’s Sponsor, and United States Senator Tom Carper attended the keel laying ceremony and basically introduced us to Delaware - through their speeches and their personal interactions with our crew. Dr. Biden (along with her grandson, Hunter) and Senator Carper stayed at the event long after it was finished and talked to every single one of our Sailors and their families.
We were very appreciative of the time that they invested in our crew, and they clearly indicated that it was important to build a positive connection between our Sailors and the State of Delaware. In the months following the keel laying our Sailors visited Dover Downs for a Dover 400 NASCAR race, the University of Delaware for a football game, the Elizabeth Murphy School in Dover, the Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, the Kalmar Nyckel museum in Wilmington, the Delaware State Archives in Dover, and the Delaware State Capital where our crew was specifically recognized by Delaware House Concurrent Resolution #16 of the 150th General Assembly.
During these visits we were very privileged to meet state leaders, leaders in business and education, and private citizens. Every one of our interactions reinforced our experience from keel laying - that it was clearly very important to everyone in the State of Delaware that our Sailors feel connected to their namesake, and proud of their service on a vessel named after the First State. As someone who is not from Delaware, I can tell you that my experiences over the past few years have made me wish that I was. Our Sailors have certainly benefited from our positive relationship, and on behalf of our future Sailors, I certainly hope it continues for the life of the submarine.
Please tell us about your current position in the Navy . Do you still work in submarines?
I currently work in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment. This is a “joint” position, which means that I represent the submarine force and the navy to those outside of my service and community. Following this tour, I expect to return to a position within the submarine community.
By James DeChene, Armitage DeChene & Associates
By Verity Watson, Ruggerio Willson & Associates
The Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council (DEFAC) held their May meeting with one more in June before the General Assembly passes the state’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget. While projections and estimates seem to change by the minute, there are a few things to be watching over the summer and into the fall related to economic recovery and what the impact to state expenditures will be in 2021.
As businesses adapt to large swaths of employees working from home, in many cases working more productively, significant changes to the dedicated physical space businesses require could be on the horizon. Downstream impacts, such as Wilmington’s wage tax, will require creative measures to insure solvency.
Corporate income tax and personal income tax filings are both predicted to take a significant hit next year. Personal income tax is the top revenue stream to the state, and while so far high wage workers have not suffered significant job losses, it will be interesting to see what the current 40% layoffs in hospitality workers translates into when federal unemployment ends in July.
All told, there remains much uncertainty—whether there will be a resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall and what that economic impact will look like, how changes made during this time related to how employees work will impact real estate, office environments, the work-from-home movement, and how all of these issues, and others, will further impact Delaware’s budget process.
April 7 was Great American Buy Local Day to support local businesses, the communities they serve, and the millions of people they employ. Even though Delawareans must socially distance themselves right now, there are still ways to support local businesses by shopping online, buying gift cards, utilizing services of essential companies, referring a friend, or leaving a positive review online. To join in on this movement, the State Chamber created the #DSCCLocalSwagChallenge to encourage Delawareans to give local businesses online love!
Today the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce is hosting #TagYourSwagDE campaign. Shout out to Connolly Gallagher LLP for the #workfromhome laptop bag and bottomless coffee mug. I have several barista's in training here at home! Support local businesses by posting photos of your company's promotional. #LoveConnollyGallagher
I thought I would be fun to show support for local businesses through the Delaware State Chamber local swag challenge! I’m tagging one of my favorite travel mugs from the 2019 Easterseals Delaware & Maryland's Eastern Shore Volleyball Challenge. This time last year the Leadership Delaware Class of 2019 was nursing a few injuries from the tournament while basking in the glow of knowing we’d just raised the most of any previous class and had raised the most of any group that year. Can’t wait to see the Class of 2020 rise to the challenge! #exceptionaleleven #LDI #tagyourswag #DSCCLocalSwagChallenge
Joining in on the #TagYourSwagDE and #DSCCLocalSwagChallenge for Sweet Somethings Dessert Shoppe! If you haven’t had their desserts, you are definitely missing out. Check them out and support local businesses when you can and when they are operational again. Shout out to Delaware State Chamber for this great idea!
Singing praises to La Baguette Bakery and Catering for Delaware State Chamber's challenge. #TagYourSwagDE #DSCCLocalSwag Challenge #UWDE #DE211
Starting off our Tuesday with our #TagYourSwagDE mugs from Easterseals Delaware & Maryland's Eastern Shore and Ronald McDonald House of Delaware, two of our favorite #Delaware nonprofits. Easterseals provides many different types disabilities services to help individuals and their families live better lives. Ronald McDonald House provides a safe, affordable “home-away-from-home” to families of seriously or chronically ill or injured children who are being treated at area hospitals. And did I mention how much I love the people who work at these two nonprofits?! Delaware State Chamber #DSCCLocalSwagChallenge #netDE
By James DeChene, Armitage DeChene & Associates and Verity Watson, Ruggerio Willson and Associates
The spread of and reaction to COVID-19 has the world changing minute by minute, and the business community has come together in these uncertain times to focus not only on keeping their doors open and their employees paid but also continuing to be a helpful presence in their communities.
It’s not an understatement to say we are currently navigating in uncharted waters. In an effort to provide some stability for employers during these times, the State Chamber of Commerce, along with other chambers across the state, industry associations and other business-focused groups are committed to finding ways for employers to keep their lights on and continue to operate.
Some of these recommendations have already been implemented as of mid-March. Currently the waiting period to file for unemployment benefits has been reduced to seven days. Workers are now allowed to supplement their income with part-time employment while still collecting benefits. Tipped employees are not being classified as minimum wage as long as they claim their tips, increasing them to a higher unemployment benefit rate. Alcohol regulations have been relaxed to increase sales at local restaurants. Zero percent loans have been made available for businesses forced to close under the State of Emergency order.
As we continue to see fallout from this crisis, there a few more areas where targeted government action could have very positive impacts for struggling businesses. These include:
These unique circumstances demand unique solutions. Other recommendations being floated include the state utilizing its top bond rating to borrow funds necessary to fully fund the unemployment insurance trust fund, to provide employers with rent relief, and to cover payroll taxes paid by employers. As mentioned earlier, access to capital remains a critical component for businesses looking to reopen, to remain open, and stay solvent during these difficult times. The ability for the state to provide this safety net is a much-needed service toward its maintenance of a strong bonding rating was designed to achieve.
As we look forward to the eventual reconvening of the General Assembly, the business community’s message is clear—a plea for action only on critical legislation. Budget, Bond, and Grants-in-Aid bills are a priority, as are any bills providing relief to employers, employees, and at-risk citizens. During these uncertain times legislative focus should remain on how we will recover as a community.
The impact of the COVID-19 crisis has the potential to dwarf the economic impact of the Great Recession. In 2008-2009, extraordinary measures were undertaken by the Markell Administration and the General Assembly to keep Delaware going, and just a few short years ago we faced a $350 million budget deficit that also took extraordinary measures to overcome. With the help and planning of the Carney Administration and the General Assembly, Delaware can position itself to come out of this crisis better positioned for the future.
Delaware's first cases of coronavirus were confirmed this week. As businesses and nonprofits in the state respond to this information, we asked the state's healthcare leaders to provide insight and advice on how to make educated decisions as we move forward.
This coronavirus is new and we don’t know all that we’d like to and need to know. Since this is a rapidly changing event, the best advice is to visit the Delaware Division of Public Health's 'DE Update on Coronavirus' for the latest news and advice.
As the coronavirus situation continues to evolve, Highmark Delaware is monitoring it closely and we urge our members, partners and employees, to exercise educated caution. Normal preventive actions like washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water, staying home if you are sick, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth, can go a long way in stopping the spread of illness. Highmark has created a website dedicated to information about the disease, as well as suggestions for protecting your health and the health of those around you. Visit faqs.discoverhighmark.com
"At Saint Francis, we encourage our community to follow CDC and Delaware Department of Health guidance: Stay home if you are sick; Cover your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze; Wash your hands; Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; Disinfect surfaces and objects; and avoid large gatherings. These actions will can slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, helping to ensure that the sickest and most vulnerable members of our community continue to have access to critical care."
how to prevent spreading covid-19:
These are challenging times for businesses of every kind and from every corner of our state. While working remotely via a laptop or other means is an option for some, it is not an option for many others. Agriculture, food manufacturers, building contractors, utility companies, industrial production sites, first responders, municipal services and countless others need people in place in order to get work done. And, let’s not forget retailers or restaurateurs that need foot traffic, or the hospitality, lodging or entertainment businesses that need guests.
how can you support local businesses
An interesting read: 9 charts that explain the coronavirus pandemic, Vox
by James DeChene, Armitage DeChene & Associates
This week Governor Carney released his 2021 Recommended Budget. Some items were already covered in his State of the State, including a $50 million investment in clean water, and $50 million to build a new school in Wilmington and upgrade existing city schools.
The Governor also reiterated his commitment to holding budget growth with an eye on the future by keeping growth below the DEFAC benchmark (under 4% for this year). While our economy is currently strong, the budget continues to set aside money for the future ($161 million in total—just under $40 million this year) and using one-time money for one-time projects. The bond bill appropriation is the highest ever, with over $892 million allocated to capital improvements.
Other items include:
• $180+ million in school construction/deferred maintenance around the state
• $20 million to the strategic fund
• $10 million transportation infrastructure fund, which the Chamber supported enabling this legislation
• $10 million to graduation lab space for innovators at UD/Experimental Station to move into as they grow from start-ups to needing lab space
• $10 million site readiness, which is based on Chamber-backed “Ready in 6” permitting reform provisions
Also this week were a pair of bills sponsored by Rep. Baumbach, and he’s batting .500 as far as State Chamber support goes. The first, HS1 for HB80 modifies his Earned Income Tax Credit legislation the Chamber has supported in the past as a way to provide low-wage earners a refundable tax credit. This approach has proven to put money in the pockets of workers, without the associated job losses of a minimum wage increase. The bill has been released from committee and now awaits a House vote. The Governor has indicated he is inclined to sign the bill if passed.
The other bill, HB288, would enter Delaware into a multi-state compact wherein Delaware would be precluded from offering incentives to attract businesses to Delaware currently located in a compact state. This puts Delaware at a direct disadvantage with surrounding states, and municipalities such as NYC that will continue to be able to utilize incentives to attract businesses to their locations.
The General Assembly will be off for the next 5 weeks as the Joint Finance Committee and Bond Committee meet to start marking up the 2021 budget.
by James DeChene, Armitage DeChene & Associates
The big news this week for State Chamber members was Governor Carney and House Majority Leader Longhurst announcing a $50 million investment in water infrastructure projects in Delaware. From storm water, waste water, drinking water and flood abatement, these issues will see over $100 million in funding, once matching funds are added. The State Chamber has pushed for a Water Infrastructure bill like this for a number of years. This level of funding will cover the next 5-10 years, instead of having to go back for money year after year. With longevity like this, projects can be bid on/completed in a thoughtful way. This also creates the ability to lump projects together to see more value for money being spent and more efficient, larger outcomes. The State Chamber sees this as how infrastructure money should be used and a great use of one-time money by the Carney Administration. Moreover, this bill not only addresses drinking water in areas like Ellendale and Blades but also flooding downstate and stormwater remediation upstate.
The Governor also announced $50 million to build a new school and upgrade current schools in Wilmington. During his State of the State address he outlined how the money would be spent. The school would replace Bancroft School and includes funding for major renovations to Stubbs Early Education Center and Bayard School, the two other Christina facilities in Wilmington.
The Governor also announced plans to create a One Stop website for citizens where they can buy park passes, register to vote and more, much like the recently created One Stop site for businesses. He is also creating a Site Readiness Fund to help quickly convert properties to meet the needs of prospective employers and expanding the EDGE grant program to support small business.
Other items of note include a proposed renewable portfolio standard of using 40% renewable energy by 2035, and planting a million new trees across the state.
A reminder that next week will see the budget proposed by the Governor, a starting point for the General Assembly. The Joint Finance Committee will be meeting later this year to write their budget and it remains to be seen what of the Administration’s proposals will make the cut.
More on the proposed budget and what it contains next week.