Rep. Longhurst's March Newsletter

Dear Neighbor,

The General Assembly returned to session this week after six weeks of budget hearings, and things have been very busy in Legislative Hall.

I know many of you have read recently about some very significant budgetary plans presented by Gov. Jack Markell, including a proposal that would raise the state tax on gasoline in order to pay for road improvements, and a plan to establish an annual fee for property owners that would fund clean water projects across the state. Also, a plan that would reduce the amount of money the state recieves from Delaware's three casinos has been brought up for discussion.

These proposals would affect every Delawarean, and it’s vitally important that my fellow legislators and I hear what you think about them. Below you will find a brief explanation of these budget plans followed by a link to a survey about them. Please take a moment to read the information below and respond to the survey.

I’ve also included a follow-up to the recent rail safety community meeting held in Delaware City. I hope you find it to be informative.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact my office if you have questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Valerie Longhurst


Budget Proposal Information and Survey

Transportation Projects:

In January, the governor unveiled a plan to increase the state motor fuels tax as part of a proposal to create a reliable revenue stream for the state’s Transportation Trust Fund and significantly boost spending on transportation projects statewide over the next five years.

Delaware’s motor fuels tax has not been increased since 1995. A ten-cent-per-gallon increase in motor fuel and special fuel taxes would generate an additional $50M to pay for roads, bridges and other transportation elements.  The estimated additional cost to motorists would by $57 per year or $4.78 per month, according to the governor’s office.

The increased motor fuels tax revenues would be coupled with a fiscally-responsible borrowing strategy that keeps DelDOT on track to paying down debt.  Fifty million dollars would be borrowed each year for five years by DelDOT to fund already-identified, but delayed construction projects that address safety, congestion and maintenance needs under the State’s Capital Transportation Plan, Paving program and State of Good Repair initiative. 

Clean Water:

Earlier this month, Gov. Markell proposed “Clean Water for Delaware’s Future,” a comprehensive plan for protecting public health and cleaning up Delaware’s bays, rivers and streams. Most of Delaware’s waters do not meet water quality standards for their designated uses – drinking, swimming and supporting fish and other aquatic life. Extensive analysis of chemical contaminants in fish has led to advisories that fish are unsafe to eat in more than 30 waterways statewide.

Clean Water for Delaware’s Future will generate additional funding for wastewater, stormwater and drinking water projects throughout the state. This money would come from a combination of state borrowing, federal grants and loans, private financing and a fee charged to homeowners on their property tax bills, which the governor’s office has said will average $45 per year.

Funds will be used to support projects that will:

  • Remove toxics and restore streams and rivers;
  • Repair and update wastewater and drinking water treatment plants;
  • Modernize stormwater infrastructure in communities to improve flood and storm resilience;
  • Support conservation/agricultural practices that prevent pollutants from reaching surface and ground waters;
  • Protect and restore critical natural resources like wetlands and forests that help purify water and mitigate flooding; and
  • Make important upgrades to industries, which will systematically reduce impacts to water resources.

Casino Committee Recommendations 

The legislative Lottery & Gaming Study Commission completed its work last week and passed its recommendation on to the full General Assembly. (Read more here.) The recommendation would involve the state helping to cover vendor fees and decreasing its share of table gaming revenue.

I voted to send these recommendations to the General Assembly for consideration, but not because I support them. After several months of discussing the issues, getting the casinos to open their books and weighing the options, we had to recommend something to complete the commission’s work.

If this is presented as a plan, I will be carefully weighing everything. We recognize with the increased out-of-state competition that times are tougher for the casinos. However, we have to balance their desires with the state’s needs. My top priority is ensuring the best outcome for the state of Delaware. These are pricey options that come at a time when our budget is strained and facing rising costs for Medicaid and increased public school enrollment. I don’t think we can talk about decreasing our revenues by millions of dollars, not unless people are going to start talking about what they are willing to cut from the budget.

CLICK HERE TO PARTICIPATE IN A SURVEY ABOUT THESE TOPICS


Rail Safety Meeting Follow-Up

I first want to thank all the residents who came to the rail safety meeting earlier this month at the Delaware City Fire Hall. We had over 150 people in attendance. The panelists were able to answer a number of important questions from what exactly is being carried in the tanker trains to how often the rail crossing are being inspected. I have posted some further information as well as the contact information for the panelists on our caucus blog. I will continue to post updates as I get answers to more of your questions.