In recent years, the country has become increasingly polarized. Cable news is full of pundits arguing angrily while focusing on our country’s differences instead of uniting us on our similarities.
Luckily, ‘The Delaware Way’ keeps us above the dividing discussions we see on the national scene.
You may get a different definition depending on who you ask, but the Delaware Way largely means that everyone sets aside their differences and works together to find solutions to Delaware’s problems. We are a small state and this approach makes sense. It has resulted in Delawareans working together to better our state in a friendly and productive way, despite their different life experiences, backgrounds, and beliefs.
However, we need to be careful that the Delaware Way does not become synonymous with the status quo and complacency. Recently, it appears the divide between ‘The Delaware Way’ and ‘The Status Quo’ has become less clear.
How has the status quo been going in Delaware?
- Since the early 1990s, government spending increased by over 100%, even after adjusting for inflation.
- Delaware now boasts the nation’s sixth highest government spend per capita, and 4th highest on a real dollar basis when you factor in average incomes.
- Delaware’s public schools rank near the bottom nationally in many categories, yet funding has increased significantly to nearly $17,000 per student, more than 50% above the national average.
- Delaware saw its total personal income move from averages around 110% of the US average to now below average.
- Today, over 225,000 Delawareans are on Medicaid – and growing. That’s roughly one fourth of our population.
Over the course of the past few decades, Delaware largely took an approach to provide opportunities to its citizens through increased government spending, higher reliance on external revenues, and government assistance in the private sector to defend current jobs and attract new jobs to the state. Although well intentioned, these decisions hurt more Delawareans than they helped.
If you are not convinced that the status quo of increased government ends up hurting Delaware, just follow the money. According to IRS data, from 1992 to 2015, New Castle County experienced a net loss of $1.5 billion in adjusted gross income, mostly from people leaving the state to live just miles away in Pennsylvania.
Revitalize Delaware believes Delaware is still well positioned to succeed if we make the necessary changes away from the status quo. We can do so given Delaware’s small size, legacy of innovation, and talented workforce.
Several quick initiatives are available to our leaders to move us away from the status quo and in the right direction:
- Delaware should enact a Constitutional Amendment that limits the growth in state spending to the growth in our economy. State Treasurer Ken Simpler has provided leadership in this important first step.
- Delaware needs to join the 13 other states who have been granted federal Medicaid waivers by creating innovative ways to limit the explosive growth of Medicaid costs while maintaining decent health care coverage for the poor.
- Over 3,000 students in Delaware are waiting – and being denied – access to our charter school system. Delaware needs to listen to its citizens and expand educational opportunities where there is the demand.
Delaware needs to build an environment that attracts companies, empowers the talented workforce to take entrepreneurial risks, and provides a quality of life that makes its citizens and others want to live here. Moreover, rather than government providing one-off, specialized incentives, tax breaks, and tax credits (Hello Fisker!), the state should build an environment that encourages any and every one to do business in the state on a level playing field.
The Delaware Way asks for citizens to put aside their differences to find solutions for Delaware’s problems. But Delaware’s status quo has largely been one-party rule with the same leaders rotating through elected positions over the last 30 years. It is political musical chairs, with the same leaders doubling down on the same initiatives and projects, while the music stays the same.
We need to be vigilant and ensure that ‘The Delaware Way’ does not become synonymous with the status quo. Delaware’s future success depends on it.