The General Assembly is Back to Work and It Is Open Bamboozlement Season for the DE GOP

Filed in Delaware by on February 17, 2014

In the past couple of days, the DE GOP (almost extinct) has taken to the NJ editorial pages to push more of their innumerate BS — going back to their message of having all The Government You Can Eat for free. Even though that is not true, they’ve decided that no one will get the math — apparently taking their cue from Colin Bonnini. Both are taking aim at the .10/gallon gas tax proposal, and neither grapple with the fact that there are 1) real costs to getting road improvements and repairs done, 2) there have to be revenues to pay for those costs, or 3) be very clear about what improvements, repairs and programs they would be willing to see die on the vine in order to get the budget in shape:

Let’s start with Gary Simpson’s piece in the NJ from Friday:

Oh, to have Connecticut’s “problem” of how to spend an additional $365 million. Or in Wisconsin and Michigan, where revenue forecasters have raised estimates for the next 18 months by $893 million and $971 million, respectively. Nationally, according to Moody’s Analytics, state revenues were up 6.7 percent for the fiscal year ending in June 2013.

Michigan cut taxes on its businesses, but raised taxes on the working poor and retirees and cut education spending. Michigan also has a sales tax, which would increase as people feel more comfortable spending. Are we to take it that Senator Simpson is going to advocate for Connecticut’s income tax rate? Or Connecticut’s sales tax rates or even their vehicle registration fees? Or how about CT’s incredibly high property tax rates — is Senator Simpson proposing those too to get to a surplus? Then again, California, Minnesota and New York also have budget surpluses, but none of them got theirs in an ALEC-approved manner. It doesn’t make much sense to compare Delaware to any of these states — all of which have higher income taxes, all have sales taxes, higher gas taxes (!) and mostly higher property taxes. Many of these taxes are responsive to increased spending activity by their citizens. Our taxes are lower — as I understand it — because we can rely so heavily on corporate taxes. Anyone think that Senator Simpson will endorse higher corporate taxes so we can get the kind of budget surpluses these other states have?

Pretty much every state he cites as an example has had tax increases of some kind since 2009. There were not many states who could balance their budgets otherwise. Taxes is still a responsible way to making sure that state services get done — because no one has a magic wand that removes snow or fixes the potholes on Rt 13. Of course, he continues to peddle the idea that some small business somewhere is not hiring because of taxes. That business is not hiring because they do not have the business demand to support additional staff. That’s Business 101. That business’ problem is less about taxes and more about not having enough customers. These fairy tales need to die.

THEN, there’s today’s missive from Reps. Hudson and Short — complaining that the NJ has not covered their “substantive” proposal to fix DelDOT’s fiscal woes. In short, the DEGOP is proposing to take the DelDOT operating budget out of the Trust Fund. That focuses the Trust Fund entirely on road projects and places the day-to-day operating budget back into the General Fund. Which is fine, but it never answers the question of how you now pay for this operating budget. The operating budget costs money — and everyone is bitching about .10/gallon to fix roads — so how exactly do Hudson and Short plan on paying for this new item to the budget? It definitely has to be paid for, and hand-waiving at efficiencies is not a plan. Details is what sells this kind of thing to the people who are paying attention, otherwise the only people to even take up this idea are the usual teajhadis who could use some Common Core remedial math. So this plan from the GOP doesn’t pay for a damn thing — it just moves money around and hopes you don’t notice the vaporware here.

Road repair and expansion certainly won’t pay for themselves. And I’m back to asking EVERYONE in the GA to get serious about dealing with our roads. You can’t just approve every single bit of development that comes down the pike and then pretend that no one needs the roads to support them. Or that the roads that we have (as battered as they are by recent snow removal) don’t need fixing. Unless, of course, you’re OK with paying for torn up tires and broken tie rods.

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  1. Earl Jaques says:

    Rep Dan Short and Rep Hudson also failed to mention in their editorial page comments that the Republicans were incharged of the House when DelDot’s operating cost where moved from the budget to the Transportation Trust Fund. They had to approved the move or it wouldn’t have happen!!

  2. Camptown Lady says:

    Maybe we need jobs, to increase tax revenues.

    Obama job approval; economy…

    Poll Date App Dis +/-

    The Economist/YouGo…41 52 -11
    McClatchy/Marist 41 54 -13
    ABC News/Wash Post 43 56 -13
    FOX News 38 59 -21
    Associated Press/GfK 42 56 -14
    Quinnipiac 39 56 -17
    GWU/Battleground 40 57 -17

    Excellent numbers.

  3. liberalgeek says:

    I guess if you compare the numbers to some sort of mythical norm, you would think that the President was doing terribly. But if you compare him to Congressional approval ratings… There are many, but they average out to a 12.3% approval rating. GWB ended with a 21% approval rating… so low-40s actually seems like a pretty nice spot, comparatively.

  4. Jason330 says:

    Obama job approval; economy…blah blah blah

    This news is going to put John McCain over the top!!

  5. Jason330 says:

    oops… thought this was the open thread. Sorry.

  6. puck says:

    Those numbers aren’t bad when you consider Obama kept the Bush policies in place until Jan 2013, so of course the economy maintained its crappy Bush status quo. When Obama finally did start to reverse the Bush tax policies he pulled his punches and left a lot of it in place (investment taxes, carried interest loophole, etc.). So we’ve only been trying to boost the economy for a year, and that with one arm tied behind our back. No wonder the public isn’t feeling a good jobs rush yet.

  7. cassandra_m says:

    And President Obama’s approval numbers don’t have much to do with Delaware jobs or tax policy. Certainly the states who do have higher employment AND revenue surpluses aren’t affected by those numbers. This is just more of Camptown’s addiction to the postmodern wanting of his own facts.

  8. anon says:

    A gas tax while citizens are still struggling to make ends meet and while unemployment/underemployment are still high is just another slap in the face to the working class, while leaving the rich in Delaware unscathed.

    Aren’t our taxes already supposed to be paying for road improvements? And why do we need a permanent gas tax increase to pay for 5 years of infrastructure projects? Shouldn’t the gas tax increase sunset?

    Delaware needs to stop balancing every pet project on the backs of the middle class, the middle class is stretched too far as it is.

  9. mediawatch says:

    @Anon:
    And why do we need a permanent gas tax increase to pay for 5 years of infrastructure projects? Shouldn’t the gas tax increase sunset?

    Well, Anon, if you own a home, you might realize that you do some repairs/improvements one year, some others the next, and on and on. And when you complete what you’ve planned in five years, there’s something else that needs fixing or that you want improved. Roads work pretty much the same way. You don’t fix ‘em once and never have to worry about them again.

    And, when you’re thinking about what you spend on home repairs — could you do what you plan for this year on the same amount of money you spent five years ago?

  10. anon says:

    Yes, I do own a home, and like Delaware, I have a budget for repairs, but unlike the state, when I redirect money earmarked to do repairs to other things, I don’t have the luxury of squeezing the money out of my neighbors or my employer to cover it.

    One more point, media watch, when the economy is bad, like it is now in Delaware, the average homeowner will put off repair projects until they feel more economically secure, they don’t suddenly decide to radically increase the repair/project work on their homes to the point where they require another revenue stream to fund it.

  11. cassandra_m says:

    I don’t have the luxury of squeezing the money out of my neighbors or my employer to cover it.

    The problem with this metaphor is that it is all of your neighbors and your employer who are using these roads, who are contributing to the deterioration and inadequacy of these roads and it has ALWAYS been that you and your neighbors and your employer have paid for these roads. It doesn’t happen by magic and yet here we have another contribution that never addresses the problem.

  12. puck says:

    We can fill the potholes with tax cuts!

    Actually the way we have structured our economy is party responsible for increased deterioration of the roads. We allow sprawl, which forces freight as well as commuters away from rail hubs and onto local roads. Those who benefit from the sprawl should certainly help pay for the roads. And as cars get more efficient they use less gas and therefore pay less gas tax.

  13. John Young says:

    In order to get “back to work”, one must “work”, no?

  14. Geezer says:

    “A gas tax while citizens are still struggling to make ends meet and while unemployment/underemployment are still high is just another slap in the face to the working class, while leaving the rich in Delaware unscathed.”

    Citizens are always struggling to make ends meet. Let’s stop pretending this is about anything other than selfishness on your part.

  15. Geezer says:

    The damage to roads is done almost exclusively by trucks, not cars. If we were going to be “fair” about it, we would tax trucks more heavily.

  16. Dave says:

    “Aren’t our taxes already supposed to be paying for road improvements?”

    Sure. And when you want to build more roads, lanes, intersections, etc, you can’t necessarily use the same money that was earmarked for existing roads, unless you have magic on your side. If you build an extension on your house, your roof maintenance budget may have to increase because you have more roof!

    “And why do we need a permanent gas tax increase to pay for 5 years of infrastructure projects? Shouldn’t the gas tax increase sunset? ”

    May be it should sunset, but surely you aren’t proposing that we do 5 years of projects and then in the 6th year, we say something like “Doh, what do we do now?”

    I would prefer that we plan for the improvements we need for the next 20 years. Federal Highway Administration studies show that a typical road has a 40 year lifecycle with the pavement receiving various treatments every 7 years in order to achieve that 40 year span. That doesn’t count actual improvements, such as new lanes, new roads, intersections, bridge repair, yadda, yadda.

    I have no desire for more taxes. In fact I would prefer no taxes, but as someone pointed out here, taxes are the price we pay for civilization. Additionally, the one attractive element of gasoline taxes, is that those who use the roads, pay for them. Here in Sussex County, a significant portion of those users are visiting from other states. I would prefer they contribute as well rather than just the taxpayers paying the price through increased income taxes.

    Finally, shifting the DOT operations bill to the general revenue budget without identifying where the money comes from means that income taxes would have to increase to pay for it. The bottom line is, that Delaware’s population is increasing. Homes are being built. People have cars which travel on the roads. Doing nothing would be very silly. Does it have to be 10 cents? Don’t know. Maybe 5 cents does the trick. But doing nothing is not a solution.

  17. truthatlast says:

    Delaware does need new roads and road repairs, and gas taxes are low relative to some other states in our region. That said, gas taxes are regressive and revenues from gas taxes decline as the miles per gallon of vehicles improves. A tax on high incomes dedicated to transportation may be a good policy direction.

  18. Liberal Elite says:

    @G “The damage to roads is done almost exclusively by trucks, not cars. If we were going to be “fair” about it, we would tax trucks more heavily.”

    Isn’t that what a tax per gallon does?

    An increased incentive to reduce unnecessary road weight is a good thing for several reasons. Too many people are driving around making light trips in heavy vehicles.

  19. Dave says:

    Tobacco taxes are regressive as well. Any calls to change those? Further, public transportation is most used by those with lower incomes. Also, Americans are driving much less and those with lower incomes, who drive longer distances make an economic choice to not relocate for various reasons (hometown stasis). Of course, I’m a flat taxer anyway, if we could ever get to the point of redefining all income as ordinary income (wages) instead of hedge fund bonuses and capital gains. If you make a buck regardless of how you made it, you owe a certain percentage (with exceptions at and below the poverty line) period. An income tax does hit everyone, who has income, that’s for sure, but does not hit those who have no wage income.

  20. MikeM2784 says:

    Tobacco usage is a choice – driving to work is not. Public transportation in the counties that are most spread out is a joke. In Kent and Sussex, people MUST drive to work. A gas tax increase therefore would hit lower income earners the hardest, particularly but not limited to the southern portion of the state. I was under the impression that Democrats were generally not in favor of regressive taxation? Why not a new bracket at the top to increase revenues?

  21. anon says:

    Citizens are always struggling to make ends meet. Let’s stop pretending this is about anything other than selfishness on your part.

    Yes, those “selfish” people in the middle class who get to pay for bank bailouts and corporate give a ways just keep whining about wanting to spend money on food and their kid’s education…how fucking selfish of them. Don’t they know they have an upper class to subsidize?

  22. SussexAnon says:

    Trucks are already taxed more heavily. The Diesel fuel tax is much higher than gas.

    Since the Gov announced his initiative gas has gone up 6 cents a gal. on its own. 10 cents a gallon when implemented over time would be barely noticeable.

    As for the home repair analogy. No, you don’t ask your boss or neighbors for money. You get a part time job to pay for it. Its about revenue, not socialism or redistribution. Unless you live in a private community, then you would ask your neighbors to pitch in to repave a road or fill in potholes.

    Sussex County great John Atkins proposed a toll road on 404 to milk the rich driving to their “3 million dollar homes” to pay for road projects. Yeah. Good idea. Because raising fees and taxes are only ok if they are for someone else (tourists).

  23. SussexAnon says:

    “….the one attractive element of gasoline taxes, is that those who use the roads, pay for them.”

    Exactly.

  24. cassandra_m says:

    So how many people travel Rt 404 anyway? Are there enough to generate enough income to replace the income proposed from the gas tax? Or enough to replace part of the income proposed?

    This is a serious question, BTW. I have no idea how many people travel the 404.

  25. liberalgeek says:

    And do enough tourists travel on 404 to justify the additional infrastructure and toll collectors?

    Although I will admit that I start out skeptical when I know that Atkins is the originator of the idea.

  26. SussexWatcher says:

    Del. 404’s average annual daily traffic is around 30K, according to teh wiki.

    It is the only real route for travelers coming to the beaches from across the Bay Bridge. Clogged all to hell during the summer and a huge pain in the ass.

  27. cassandra_m says:

    So if you charge $5.00 each, you might get approx. $55M/year. That doesn’t include building the toll infrastructure.

    Not saying that $5.00 is the right number, but just to get an idea how what the revenue might be.

    ps. So 404 is one of the roads that ought to be on the shortlist for improvements, then?

  28. MikeM2784 says:

    Up to tolls on Rt. 1 for out of state vehicles only. Or everybody. At least that adds an element of choice to it. Better yet, how about we legalize and tax marijuana? With all of our tourism, there is some serious revenue potential and cost savings from small time possession convictions.

  29. mediawatch says:

    And what about the Delawareans who travel 404 into Maryland and back? I suppose they’re real happy with Atkins’ proposal.
    Or would he propose exempting them from the toll?

    Then again, maybe we should take Atkins seriously and apply the concept more broadly. Let’s charge admission to Delaware. Two bucks a pop. Set up toll booths and EZ-Pass lanes on 202, 52, both ends of 13, West Main Street and South Main Street in Newark.
    All those Pennsylvanians who come here to shop — if they spend more than $35, they’re still coming out ahead.
    John Atkins, you rock!

  30. SussexWatcher says:

    Del. 404 needs to be dualized to handle the traffic; it’s just a standard two-lane road. Part of the Maryland route already is dualized. Sussex folks have been asking for this for years; DelDOT keeps saying no.

  31. Aoine says:

    Media watch-

    you forgot the tolls for entry into DE on the south end of Route One from the OCEAN city side….route 13 and route 113 from the south.

    The LEWES harbor…….Roosevelt inlet

    The LEWES- cape may ferry,

    The Indian river inlet

    And the port of Wilmington……..

    Life in Delaware does not begin and end in New Castle county.

    Then there is RT 301 INTO Kent County

    Just pointing out that Sussex and Kent exists and they get travel in from New Jersey and Maryland, in DROVES….

    And 404 is a nightmare, but then again so is 13 and 113

  32. mediawatch says:

    Aoine — Sorry I missed a couple. Route 1 at the MD line might generate as much revenue as 404 with the Bethany/Fenwick crowd heading to OC when they want some real fun. (And Atkins himself would have to pay whenever he wanted a night out at Seacrets.) Wasn’t thinking about the ferry and Memorial Bridge because they’ve already got tolls.
    You know, you throw up all these toll booths, and you’ve got construction jobs, then you can hire some attendants — all of a sudden it looks good for the economy. Mix in some PR/marketing jobs (“Come visit Delaware. For only $5 admission — half the price of a movie — your whole family gets to see …)
    That Atkins guy is a frickin’ genius. How come we never noticed?

  33. Andy says:

    Why not a sliding scale transportation tax of about $100.00 across the board on individuals and businesses. Shelve the gas tax and bus fare increases which unfairly impact working people. Adds 100 million to the transportation trust fund

  34. MikeM2784 says:

    Problem with that proposal is the tourist who use the roads frequently pay nothing towards their repair; instead, tourism is subsidized by the natives. I’m no advocate of an increase in the gas tax (and certainly not an increase in bus fare unless they expand routes), but just raising taxes on citizens of Delaware isn’t really a viable solution either. Perhaps the creation of a top tax bracket to hit those who have benefited the most from Delaware’s prosperity would be a start. I think in state / out of state rates for the tolls should be an option as well.