Delaware should spend tax dollars wisely
The tax cuts approved by Congress earlier this year are proving to be a bonanza for many states. Delaware is one, with an increase in projected revenue of more than $82 million just announced.
So what is the Democrats' response: Spend. Spend. Spend. Let's spend it as fast as we can.
On the other hand, let's don't.
Or better yet, let's better differentiate between current budgeting and the Bond Bill. In other words, rather than spending the extra on continuing programs, put it in the Bond Bill as a one-time amount.
In the past few years, the Joint Finance Committee and the General Assembly have got it mostly backward. First, they'd fully fund all the operating accounts, raising taxes if necessary to get enough money. And then whatever was left over went to the Bond Bill. Given that, is it any wonder our infrastructure is like it is?
Liberals will disagree, but there are plenty of places to cut spending. And one place, for sure, where more money is needed. That place is the prison system.
Why is it so easy to fund social programs and so hard to give more money to corrections so more guards can be hired and their pay raised to more competitive levels?
As for cuts, the General Assembly gave it a modest try last year, but one thing that cries out for reform is our public school system. We have 19, count 'em, 19 school districts in our small state. That task force charged with recommending change came up empty, arguing that cutting this to three districts couldn't be done.
What they really mean is it can't be done easily, or without some high-salaried administrators losing their jobs. Heavens! Can't have that, can we?
One argument heard about school mergers is that it saves no money because teachers' salaries would have to be "leveled up." This means that if some big consolidation occurred, all teachers' salaries would have to be equalized. And, ergo, Sussex County teachers living in Delmar or Bridgeville would get the same pay as those in Brandywine or Christiana districts.
No one ever explains why. So, anyway, we'll agree for the moment that merging 19 districts into three is too much. But we won't agree that 19 is just right. Why are there two districts in Dover, a city of 40,000? Why are there five districts in western Sussex with no town larger than 6,900?
Another area for savings is the various social-service agencies. Why do we have so many, all with a cabinet-level secretary and all the administrative baggage that entails. And while we're at it, let's talk about child protective services.
All of us would agree that some agency of government is needed to deal with abused children. However, in this state and too many others, child protective services has become a gang of busy-bodies that substitute their own judgment for that of parents.
Take the kid who has been naughty and is about to be whacked by his father. This little kid is too bright for his age when he tells dad that if he so much as touches him, he's calling 911. Or what about the busy-bodies down the hall who think they know more than the mother?
A few years ago in another state, our cousin fell ill and had to go to the hospital. She lodged her son, then about 10, with her boyfriend, who had a son of similar age. A day or so later, someone called child protective services. They show up, snatched my cousin's son and put him in foster care. It took several months for her parents, and the lawyers they hired, to wrest that poor kid from the clutches of the state - over the screaming objection of the social worker who swore that my cousin was an unfit mother.
So what's the solution to that? A few months ago, when my cousin needed surgery, she shipped the boy, now 15, off to her ex-husband (his father) in eastern Europe in order to avoid the social worker. You figure.
Next topic. Next time you drive on the SR1 bypass around Smyrna, glance to the west and espy the Delaware Emergency Management Agency headquarters. If it's a weekday, the parking lot will have scores of cars parked. What on earth do these people do? Are we expecting ISIS to fly an airplane into the DuPont building in Wilmington?
Truth be told, only a very small number of cities in the United States face a real threat from terrorists. None is in Delaware. The only place in Delaware with this sort of threat is Dover Air Force Base, and we can rely on the Air Force to protect itself without any help from state bureaucrats.
So after we at least maintain operational spending at current levels, let's just put the rest of the extra money into the Bond Bill. I'm sure DelDOT has plenty of work it could do sooner, like widening Route 24 between Rehoboth Beach and Millsboro, or widening Route 9 between Lewes and Georgetown. Or widening Route 404 to the Maryland state line - like Maryland is doing from the Delaware state line to U.S. 50.
Now that's a good idea: Sober.
Perhaps we can ask legislators to be sober and avoid increases in continuing spending so when the economy turns south - as it inevitably will at some point - we don't face tax increases again.