Senate Approves Important Infrastructure Investment that Will Create Jobs, Improve Economy

DOVER -- The Delaware State Senate passed key legislation late Tuesday that will move Delaware forward by investing in crucial infrastructure projects.

House Bill 140, which was backed by all 12 Senate Democrats and received vital Republican support, raises $24 million annually for critical upgrades that will make Delaware’s roads and bridges safer, create good-paying jobs and increase our economic competitiveness with surrounding states. The $24 million will be matched by $24 million in borrowing that ultimately will result in nearly $300 million over the next six years.

“This was an important piece of legislation to get done this year and I’m pleased it received bi-partisan support,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins. “First and foremost, tackling much-needed infrastructure projects will keep Delawareans safe and improve their quality of life, and those are the things we were elected to enhance.”

HB 140 passed the House along party lines back in May and when it first came to a vote in the Senate on June 25, no Republican supported it. Senate Majority Leader David McBride, said the newfound GOP support was the result of intense negotiations.

“I think they saw that as Democrats, we were willing to make some very difficult choices – cuts that nobody wanted to make – to get us a balanced budget,” McBride said. “And as a result, I think they did some soul searching and decided it was time to raise some key DMV revenues we haven’t touched for a generation so we can get to work fixing our roads.”

The new funding, culled by modest increases to several Department of Motor Vehicle fees that have gone largely unchanged since 1990, will be used for DelDOT projects in all three counties in the coming years. It also bolsters the state’s ability to borrow additional construction funds at low interest rates.

“We do routine maintenance on virtually everything that is important to us – our homes, our cars, even our health,” said Sen. Karen Peterson, D-Stanton, who chairs the Senate Highways & Transportation Committee. “The bottom line is we’re overdue for routine maintenance on our roads and bridges. This investment addresses that, while also giving a shot in the arm to our state’s economy.”

According to economists, every $1 spent on improving infrastructure yields $3 for the local economy. In addition, every $100 million of new infrastructure spending accounts for 1,300 new construction jobs, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisors.

In recent years, Maryland and Pennsylvania have passed similar infrastructure packages. Today’s Senate vote was critical to ensuring Delaware remains competitive with our neighbors, allowing us to retain large employers and attract new businesses to the state.

“The House Democrats who voted unanimously for this DMV fee bill know that it is an investment in our infrastructure and our state’s future. It means more middle-class jobs, provides for safer roads and helps Delaware be more competitive in attracting businesses,” said House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf.

“This process began six months ago and has involved leaders from all four caucuses,” he added. “The solution was something we all helped craft, and I am encouraged that we have begun to address a huge infrastructure funding issue. We must continue to work to solve this problem.”

The legislation now heads to Gov. Jack Markell for his signature. Once enacted, the DMV fee increases will take effect on October 1.