Transport strategy group states position

June 16, 2014

We are deeply concerned about the current budget proposal to reduce the Transportation Trust Fund by $40 million per year to help rescue the state’s General Fund. When the trust fund was created in the late 1980s, it was designed to provide capital funding to preserve, rebuild and expand DelDOT’s transportation infrastructure. In the early 1990s the department’s highway operation costs were transferred to the Trust Fund (“temporarily”) to rescue the State’s General Fund. Those operating costs were never returned.

In the early 2000s DMV costs were transferred to the trust fund to again rescue the state’s General Fund. Despite an increase in some revenues for the Transportation Trust Fund in 2007, a bipartisan task force of government and private sector individuals appointed by General Assembly in 2011 identified shortfalls in the Transportation Trust Fund and recommended immediate corrective measures to maintain its ability to fund transportation projects. These measures were never implemented. Now this year, in the proposed budget, the $40 million of Escheat Tax Income earmarked for the Transportation Trust Fund is being redirected to the state’s General Fund to rescue it once again.

We steadfastly oppose this latest proposed transfer of money out of the Transportation Trust Fund without a sufficient increase in Transportation Trust Fund revenues to replace it. Since the beginning of the 2008 recession, the greatest impact on jobs in Delaware has been felt by the construction industry, which was the state’s largest industry prior to the recession. We do not believe this industry and the transportation needs of Delaware should take yet another hit because the rest of state government has been unable to contain its costs. Our infrastructure is deteriorating and our skilled workforce is evaporating.

It’s time to show leadership and take positive action, not make a larger withdrawal from the public infrastructure Transportation Trust Fund. We do not care how the problem is solved - just solve it! Retain the existing Escheat Tax transfer, increase the gas tax (now at an all-time low when adjusted for inflation), transfer operating costs back to the state General Fund, or raise existing DMV fees or tolls. Just don’t resort to the old trick of excessive borrowing without matching it with new revenue.

We all need real leadership now and not self-serving, job protecting votes by our elected officials. We will no longer contribute to election campaigns or vote for legislators who run from their responsibility to make tough decisions. If you just can’t vote for new revenue this year, then simply retain the transfer of Escheat Funds now required by state law.

We know there are many options available in the 2011 Task Force Report and I expect action now. The best remedy for the state General Fund shortfall is job creation that generates increased income tax revenue. Please stop subtracting private sector jobs to fund shortfalls in the state General Fund Budget!

Joe Wutka


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