By James DeChene
On November 8th, Delawareans will head to the polls to choose candidates who will face big issues in 2017, both in Congress and here at home. Focusing on Delaware, the next Governor and General Assembly will tackle how our state government raises and spends money, on what programs and services the government will offer, and how to continue to build upon the recovery from the Great Recession. There are no easy answers to these issues, as has been documented in this space over the last months, yet the important issues of long-term economic stability, making Delaware an attractive place for businesses, and properly preparing Delaware students for the workforce remain.
Election Day is your opportunity to help shape the path of Delaware’s future. As Chamber of Commerce members, you are invested in this state, both professionally and personally, as are your employees. The decisions you make next Tuesday in the voting booth will have a direct impact on your life here in Delaware. While you may be suffering, as I certainly am, from election fatigue, I urge you to take the time to learn about the candidates in your district and make an informed decision on November 8th.
by James DeChene
Congratulations are due to the winners of primary races in Delaware this past Tuesday. Special congratulations go to Chamber PAC supported candidates House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, Representative Bryon Short, and Representative David Wilson.
Closer to election day, we will be getting you a list of general election candidates, along with a notice of who the Chamber PAC has supported.
Next year, as we’ve said before, is shaping up to be an active one from a legislative and regulatory perspective. It bears repeating that the issues important to your businesses—from employment law and health care provisions, to tax policy, to transportation and environmental regulations and all points in between, those you send to Dover will be making decisions that impact you and your employees directly. It is important to vote in November.
Of particular note, on Monday, September 19, DEFAC will be meeting to make their forecast on Delaware’s revenue for next year and for projections on what the FY18 budget may look like. This is an important belle weather of how Delaware’s economy is faring, and there have been signs that several key areas of funding may be in jeopardy. Monday will give us a glimpse of how big a fight over the budget we can expect next year, so stay tuned for more.
One other item to keep your eyes on is the upcoming change in overtime rules for employees. Following is a link to the most recent guidance on the issue if you haven’t been following it closely: https://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/final2016/.
by James DeChene
There are many competitive Delaware primaries in most of the races this year and it is unclear (as of now) who will win. Up and down the state, and in both parties, on September 13th the outcomes will shape the narrative for the November general election and beyond. In January there will be a new member of Congress, a new Governor and Lt. Governor, an inducted 149th General Assembly and many important county and local positions will be filled such as County Executive and City of Wilmington Mayor.
A reminder email will be sent to Chamber members highlighting which races have primaries and inwhich races the Chamber’s PAC has contributed to a candidate. Remember—it is important for the business community to vote and be actively involved in the legislative and regulatory process. Laws and regulations are created and promulgated that have direct impact on your business and how it operates. This election season is the time for your voice to be heard by those who are asking for your vote to represent you in Washington, Dover, your county and in your town—make sure you take the time to make an informed decision on who you want to be your voice.
by James DeChene
August 20th is the deadline for those who wish to vote in Delaware primary elections to be held on September 13th. In addition to being able to register at DMV or at your local library, the easiest way is online: ivote.de.gov. There are a number of races featuring primaries this year, all candidates for which can be viewed in the PDF linked below.
DE 2016 Primary Election Candidates
by James DeChene
The Dog Days of Summer are upon us. The last two weeks have been filled with national party convention drama, heat waves making for great vacation/beach weather (see you next week, Lewes), and mixed in are polls for the City of Wilmington mayoral and Congressional races, with results showing that many people are not yet focused on local elections. Faster than some sunburns will fade, Fall and the September primaries will be here, and, as the State Chamber has mentioned (repeatedly), there are hot button issues on the horizon next year. Many of them have been outlined in the recent Delaware Business Roundtable’s Growth Agenda (available for your beach reading pleasure), and can help serve as an election guide for the business community to choose who is best served to help guide Delaware into the future. For now, we hope you enjoy your summer, that your AC is working, and that you’ll spend some time reading up on your specific candidates up for election.
Salvatore J. “Chip” Rossi, has been elected chairman of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce (DSCC) board of directors, effective at the Annual Meeting on January 11, 2016.
Rossi succeeds Mark Stellini, who will continue to serve on the DSCC board of directors.
“Chip and I have worked together for a number of years at the chamber,” said Mark Stellini, immediate past chair of DSCC. “Considering Chip’s outstanding leadership and involvement in the community, he’s the perfect fit for the role.”
Mr. Rossi is the Consumer and Global Wealth & Investment Management Risk executive at Bank of America, one of the world’s leading financial services companies. Rossi also represents the bank as the Delaware Market President. Rossi graduated from Gettysburg College, where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Management. He has been on the DSCC Board of Directors since 2010.
“I’m excited to work with Chip as he takes on this new role,” said Rich Heffron, president of DSCC. “His position in the business community and his vision for the State Chamber will help to further our organization’s goals and become a stronger state.”
The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to promoting an economic climate that strengthens the competitiveness of Delaware businesses and benefits citizens of the state. Founded in 1837 as the Wilmington Board of Trade, the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce has a long history as the largest, most influential business organization in the state.
By James DeChene
As the sun rose on July 1st, the first half of the 148th General Assembly Session drew to a close. The first six months of 2015 saw legislative action on a variety of issues, though in terms of highlights, discussion and action education reform was the “it” topic. Bills ranged from the controversial “opt-out” bill, to starting the process to change how and where children in Wilmington are educated, to schools evaluating the amount of standardized testing offered each year. Thrown into the mix were broader discussions on transportation infrastructure spending, modifying the state’s abandoned property, or escheat collection, and looming over everything is the pending budget crisis expected next year. As the dust settles, it’s a good time to review a few key pieces of legislation that passed this year that will impact the business community.
Transportation Infrastructure Funding
In the aftermath of last year’s failed measure to raise the gas tax to help fund infrastructure projects, the goal this year was for the General Assembly to find $50 million to dedicate to infrastructure funding, with Governor Markell pledging to borrow another $50 million. After spending months negotiating on how to come up with the required money, the General Assembly passed legislation that will raise just under $24 million by raising a number of DMV fees as well as the document fee associated with new car sales. In addition, $5 million of DOT operating expenses was transferred out of the Transportation Trust Fund responsible for funding infrastructure projects. As part of the negotiated deal, the money will be placed into a “lock box” dedicated for spending on transportation, the threshold for prevailing wage projects was raised, and prevailing wage will not be applied to the $20 million allocated to municipal street aid and the Community Transportation Fund, both of which fund local transportation improvements, such as filling potholes. The State Chamber expressed early support for all three add-ons, and lobbied diligently in support of a larger overall package that would have raised the goal of $50 million, and we hope that further action is taken in 2016 to help overcome the expected $780 million in anticipated shortfall over the next six years in much needed infrastructure projects.
Two bills were passed related to how Delaware collects abandoned property, also known as escheat. Currently representing 14% of the state’s operating budget, this $500+ million revenue stream has come under fire from the business community at large over the last few years, resulting in a taskforce that met over the summer and came up with many of the proposals that were contained in these bills. They include limiting the total number of audits any one outside contractor can be assigned and requires all contracts with such contract auditors to assure that they will not employ or compensate senior officials from the Department of Finance involved with their work for two years after such officials leave state employment. It also directs the Secretary of Finance to prepare and promulgate a detailed manual containing procedural guidelines for the conduct of Delaware unclaimed property examinations and to update its regulations accordingly. The second bill shortens significantly the “look back” period from 1981 to 1991, and going forward will be a rolling 22 year “look back” starting in 2017. The bill also changes how companies can be audited, specifying they must first be offered the opportunity to enter a Voluntary Disclosure Agreement program. The State Chamber was involved in the process from the outset, and is pleased to see sustentative modifications made to the program.
As mentioned above the budget this year was a difficult process for the General Assembly to undertake, and ultimately did nothing to plan for the next fiscal year. The State Chamber was disappointed that one-time monies stemming from bank mortgage settlements were used to fill budget gaps, that there was no included requirement that state employees contribute more to their health insurance costs, and that no serious review of overall state spending was undertaken this year. The State Chamber will continue to review areas in which the state can be more effective and efficient when creating its budget.
According to the June Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council report, the state faces upwards of a $160 million budget shortfall for FY2017. What this means for the business community is that the needed money will come from either agency and program cuts or through increases in taxes, or, more likely, a combination of both. Already on the table is a proposal to add two top tiers of personal income tax levels as well as a proposal to increase corporate franchise tax thresholds. These come on top of earlier proposals to cut corporate income tax rates, and increase the Gross receipts tax. The State Chamber is on record urging the General Assembly not to simply raise taxes to close budget holes, but to focus first and foremost on areas in state government that can be trimmed or eliminated. The state has contracted with Pew Charitable Trusts to review the budget process and other groups have commissioned their own studies to find ways to make Delaware leaner. Next year will be a test of how well our elected officials lead. It’s also important to remember that next year is an election year, and that simple fact always throws a number of monkey wrenches into the process. The State Chamber will be on hand as the voice of Delaware business to ensure our elected officials know how their decisions impact the future of Delaware business.