Markell initiatives deserve serious discussion
Gov. Jack Markell has pushed his legislative efforts into high gear with two major initiatives. One aims to bring our highway infrastructure up to date with funding from a 10-cent-pergallon gas-tax hike. The other initiative would hike property taxes by an average of about $45 per property owner to clean up our water resources.
Both, of course, are worthy initiatives and deserve serious discussion and debate. What they don’t need is to be dismissed immediately in accordance with a short-sighted political strategy which warns elected officials not to increase taxes or fees in an election year.
Following the recession-driven economic slowdown, Delaware is once again developing rapidly. Most of us, especially in Sussex with its liberal zoning setting the stage for hundreds of thousands of more homes over the next 50 years, will not see the end of development. We’re headed urban, and we’re foolish if we don’t start planning for the transportation infrastructure to handle inevitable growth.
This discussion must include how much of the expansion should be funded by developers whose success will bring so many more cars. Gov. Markell needs to explain how his proposed gas-tax funding will be balanced by responsible development participation.
Likewise with his clean-water initiative.
There are plenty of examples of developments and other entities not meeting stormwater management or pollution responsibilities. As a result, neighboring properties feel the brunt with no recourse but to handle problems themselves or hire a lawyer, neither of which is inexpensive.
Delaware and Sussex County don’t have a history of cooperation when it comes to working together on land use, transportation and water resource issues. But with Sussex County Council’s hands-off policy toward development, the state needs to use more of its sovereign power to force cooperation on these issues rather than simply seeking more revenues to clean up existing problems while new ones are being created.
If we want to keep Delaware a nice place to live, we’re going to have to shoulder some long-overdue tax increases. But those increases must be balanced by private-sector responsibility reasonably demanded and enforced by the state.