We Stand with the Democratic Six.

Filed in National by on September 9, 2015

So House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf is not happy with the Democratic Six. And he vented last Thursday at an East Sussex Democratic club event.

House Speaker Peter Schwartzkopf is not pleased about the six House Democrats who voted against the state budget and implied Thursday they were misleading the media as to their reasons. “Some of what you’re hearing now about the reasons why they voted against the budget that was being published in the paper was not accurate,” Schwartzkopf, D-14-Rehoboth, said Thursday. [...]

[Schwartzkopf] twice spoke of six state House of Representative Democrats and their decision to vote “no” on 2016’s $3.9 billion state budget. “I don’t understand it. It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Schwartzkopf said. “Two of them were brand-new. It was the first budget they ever saw.” [...]

Schwartzkopf would not specify what, specifically, he believed led the six to vote “no,” but was adamant that reports as to the group’s intentions were wrong. “The six people have reasons for what they did. What’s in the paper is not accurate,” the speaker said.

“What’s in the paper” is a reference to the Democratic Six’s editorial in the News Journal explaining their vote. And I suppose, for those don’t know, I should identify by name the Democratic Six. They are State Representatives Kimberly Williams, John Kowalko, Sean Lynn, Paul Baumbach, Andria Bennett, and Sean Matthews. The Six said their no votes were in response to the Leadership’s decision to kick the can down the road rather than stay true to their Democratic principles and pass a budget that restores some fairness to our state tax code while also raising revenue to fill the budget gap.

Delaware faced a $60 million shortfall this year, and is facing a projected budget shortfall of over $160 million next year. When facing a dire financial situation, it only makes sense to take steps to address it and to stop digging that hole deeper. Rather than using this moment to address this looming deficit in a balanced manner that combines spending cuts with increased revenue, the General Assembly passed a budget that relied on “one-time” settlement money. The budget relying on some of the one-time settlement money was especially disappointing, as it was awarded specifically to cushion the devastation that bad corporate action had brought to families who had lost their homes and had their dreams of prosperity halted. The budget includes cuts to the poorest among us and the continued spending of scarce state dollars on failed federal programs such as “Race to the Top.” This budget did not adequately reflect our middle-class values.

The Delmarva Now story notes that former Senate candidate Claire Snyder-Hall (D), who is now with Common Cause Delaware, pressed the Speaker on the Democratic Six’s comments at the recent PDD forum last week on the budget.

“There was a public forum with the six up in Wilmington and there (were) a couple of points they made, and I just want to give you a chance to respond to them,” Snyder-Hall said. “One was the revenue bills for the progressive income tax and for the corporate franchise tax passed out of committee with (a) bipartisan vote and never came to the floor.”

And those bills, House Bill 181, which I call the Progressive State Income Tax Act, and House Bill 196, which I call the Progressive State Income Tax and Middle Class Tax Cut Act, are still to this day waiting on a vote on Pete Schwartzkopf’s House floor. Currently, Delaware’s top income tax rate of 6.6 percent applies to incomes of $60,000 and above, which means that your teacher, your nurse, and your friendly neighborhood billionaire all pay the same tax rate. Seems kinda violently outrageous to me and all humans. Indeed, our state’s top tax rates makes me want to just go out and slay the denizens of Chateau Country just for the hell of it. So, suffice it to say, it is time to bring some fairness to the code.

House Bill 181 would create two new brackets. The former top rate of 6.6% would apply to incomes between 60 and 125K. A new rate of 7.10% would apply to incomes between 125K and 250K, and another new rate of 7.85% would apply to incomes over 250K. House Bill 196 would also establish the above new rates, but then give everyone a 5 percent tax cut across the board.

Last year, the budget deficit, which fluctuated between $60 and 83 million dollars, could have been solved by the implementation of these new rates alone. The Delaware Department of Finance estimated that raising the rate to 7.6% on all incomes over 125k would bring in $71.7 million. We would have to play with the numbers here, lowering the rate to 7.1% on incomes between 125k and 250k, and raising it on incomes over 250k, as the Tax Bills, but you get the idea of how much revenue could be raised.

But we did nothing and now we have double the budget deficit. That was the main objection of the Democratic Six to the budget that passed last year. Their no votes were a reflection of disappointment that the can was kicked down the road.

Guess what? Pete Schwartzkopf is not that strong of a kicker. Because “down the road” is January 2016. That’s about 100 days from now. And no one time settlement money or budget gimmicks is going to balance the budget this year. And Pete Schwartzkopf is going to have to get over his hurt feelings, and not engage in petty retaliation against the six. Instead, he is going to have to follow their lead on the budget. We did it your way last year, Pete. Now we are going to do it our way.

We finally have to make the right decisions. We are finally going to have to raise revenue on the wealthy. And that act of basic fairness comes first, before any further cuts to services for the poor and needy. And we will raise corporate fees first before we cut the General Assistance fund or Medicaid. And we will do that because we are Democrats who believe in economic fairness and fighting income inequality.

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  1. Jason330 says:

    Sneaky Pete could not give a fuck if Republicans took all of those seats.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Tax, tax tax…blah, blah blah. How about the administration stop giving away the farm, for companies to set up business’ here!!!!
    Our little Delaware’s Gov is one of the highest paid in the nation.

  3. Mike Matthews says:

    Excellent post! I’m sharing on Facebook.

  4. Tom Kline says:

    Increasing Taxes will work.. LOL