Delaware must get more skin in game

June 8, 2017

Sussex County legislators play an outsized role in Delaware leadership.

Out of eight ranking Democrats and Republicans - four in the House and four in the Senate - who make up what has often been called the Big Head committee because of its critical role in leading the annual budget negotiations, three represent Sussex districts. Democrat Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf of Rehoboth Beach, Republican House Minority Leader Danny Short of Seaford and Republican Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson of Milford.

The three are friends, political moderates, and respected for their sound reasoning and willingness to compromise for the benefit of the state. This is the year they should place Sussex in the forefront of making Delaware great again.

The key is working toward bipartisan passage of fractional increases in rates across many of our income tax brackets. The top bracket starting at $60,000 is also clearly outdated. Income taxes are the fairest of all taxes and provide the most predictable source of income.

In the 1990s, the highest income tax bracket paid 19.9 percent. That pendulum clearly had swung too far. Legislators responded by cutting income taxes several times. Now the highest bracket tax rate is 6.6 percent.

Delaware also cut its spending significantly - including reducing employee ranks by a thousand - and leaned ever harder on out-of-state revenues. Now, more than 40 percent of our annual budget revenues come from corporate taxes, franchise fees and other funds from outside our borders.

Meanwhile, state waters remain embarrassingly polluted, jeopardizing our tourist economy; ranks of correctional and other enforcement officers are dangerously thin and underpaid; tight state police budgets in an unprecedented opioid-abuse epidemic threaten our security; and job-training super force Delaware Tech suffers from crumbling infrastructure. Our needs are great.

Even with minor income tax increases, millions more in cuts will have to be made. That's where further compromises will come.

The pendulum has swung too far toward Delaware's dependency on out-of-state revenues. We must restore a more sustainable balance between in-state and out-of-state revenues.

It's time to halt Delaware's accelerating skid toward mediocrity.


  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Dennis Forney, Publisher Emeritus, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, CoPublisher and Editor; Dave Frederick, Sports Editor Emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, Associate Editor; Nick Roth, Sports Editor; and Chris Rausch, CoPublisher and General Manager.

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