The Delaware General Assembly wraps up at midnight June 30th (give or take a few minutes into July 1st). Rob Tornoe offers his view about the last minute gas tax that is being floated in Leg Hall.
Here’s Rob’s commentary
Here’s a fun game. Find someone wearing one of those yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” t-shirts and start complaining about the quality of Delaware’s roads. I’m sure you’ll hear a mouthful about potholes, uneven payment and complaints about traffic. Then ask how we should pay to fix it, and watch their head explode. Such is the problem Gov. Jack Markell finds himself in. Looking for money to fill the depleted transportation trust fund, Markell floated the idea of increasing some taxes and fees to raise more than $80 million. Some of the ideas make me leery, like a 5-cent increase in the gas tax or raising the weekend tolls on Del. 1 from $2 to $2.50. But the repairs need to be made, so we need to find the money somewhere. So how did some of the state’s politicians react? Predictably, like a bunch of crybabies trying to find their lost rattle. “Now is not the right time to consider this,” said House Minority Leader Daniel Short. Sen. Dave Lawson followed on Short’s theme, claiming the money “can be had by just searching a bit.” Sen. Colin Bonini also weighed in on the idea of raising the gas tax, trotting out the well-worn line, “My take has been and continues to be, that Delaware does not have a revenue problem, Delaware has a spending problem.” Notice what all three didn’t do? Come up with a single item they would cut out of the current budget to fund these infrastructure repairs. It wasn’t only Republicans throwing cold water on Markell’s plan. “We’d like to put people back to work and we would like to have some of our infrastructure improved. But we’re not shouldering it all,” said House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, who is apparently looking for Aladdin’s lamp to wish away the state’s tight financial situation. The money would go to various road projects throughout the state, and park improvements would include work at Cape Henlopen State Park and Lums Pond State Park. Markell’s plan would also aim to deal with erosion along the Assawoman Canal and replace a dam at Abbott’s Mill Pond. These are hardly items that I would call “lavish,” so if we’re going to fix them, we need to come up with the money somewhere. Nobody likes paying taxes, and people hate having fees raised. But it’s put up or shut up time – either lawmakers are willing to sacrifice a bit somewhere in order to get work done in their districts, or the work isn’t important enough to warrant new fees. Until they decide, no more complaining about the roads. Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.