DelDOT secretary on transportation funding [video]

 (Julio Cortez/AP Photo, file)

(Julio Cortez/AP Photo, file)

State Democrats and Republicans agree that improving Delaware’s roads and bridges is a priority.

But when the conversation turns to the actual dollars and cents, on that point, Delaware state lawmakers are split. Case and point: last week’s straight party line vote on a measure to increase Dept. of Motor Vehicles fees as one revenue source.

Jennifer Cohan, Secretary of Delaware’s Dept. of Transportation, visited WHYY’s Wilmington studios this week for an interview that will air Friday night at 5:30 p.m. on First. She described the increases laid out in House Bill 140 as common sense increases.

“A lot of those fees are things that you could actually finance, for example the document fee. When you buy a new vehicle or even a used vehicle, you can actually finance that,” said Cohan, of the paperwork processing charge car dealerships charge buyers.

Under HB 140, the document fee would see an increase from 3.75 percent to 4.25 percent. Cohan said if the Senate approves the package, Delaware would remain competitive since document fees in Maryland and Pennsylvania are at 5 percent and 6 percent respectively. 

Other proposed increases include bumping up the driver’s license late renewal fees and vehicle registration late renewal fees.

“The makeup of those other fees are things like late fees, and temporary tags and things like that, that you can actually avoid paying, so we really were very particular and careful on choosing those different revenues to make sure it wasn’t going to impact the Delaware citizen extrememly hard,” said Cohan, of the changes that are projected to add nearly $500,000 to the Transportation Trust Fund.

DelDOT operations

In addition to protesting the DMV increases, state Republicans have pushed for returning DelDOT’s operating expenses to the state’s General Fund, where all of the state’s other agencies pull from. The proposed GOP plan would be spread out over seven years.

“This move would solve the long-term structural funding problem, without the need for higher vehicle fees, a gas tax hike, or additional borrowing,” said House Minority Leader Danny Short, in the taped GOP weekly message last week. 

“It makes a ton of sense because the Transportation Trust Fund was originally conceived to do just capital projects, so I know both myself and the governor is also okay with having that conversation,” Cohan said. “The problem that we’re running into currently is that General Fund revenue situation is just as bad, if not worse, than the Transportation Trust Fund revenue situation.”

During her interview, Cohan also addressed where progress stands on the I-495 bridge over the Christina River in Wilmington, and gave updates on both the 113 and 301 bypass projects. 

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Sec. Cohan’s interview can be seen on FirstFriday night at 5:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.  

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