Delaware’s road to austerity is destroying most vulnerable

December 4, 2017

The Delaware General Assembly and Governor Carney gave millions away to wealthy corporations and even got rid of the estate tax last year despite a massive budget gap. Out of those millions, we could have spared the $2.5 million to continue funding the Delaware Pharmaceutical Assistance Program. The recent News Journal headline “Husband and wife of 71 years identified in Kenton murder-suicide” is heartbreaking. I am deeply saddened by this predictable turn of events caused by the General Assembly and Governor’s failure to give even a minimal consideration for the needs of the state’s most vulnerable. I am proud of my vote against that travesty of a budget. But please realize that unless all Delawareans of conscience write, email, and call their elected officials, there will be a repeat of corporate giveaways borne by our most vulnerable again this year. Callous disregard for others wears no particularly party label and has no place in public service and must be uprooted and replaced.

As I wrote before, our continued budgetary path down the road of austerity for the needy and aggrandizement of the wealthiest corporate powers has forfeited the moral integrity of our political leaders and led our State into recurring fiscal shortfall and crisis.

Over 5,100 seniors and people with disabilities were enrolled in the Delaware Pharmaceutical Assistance Program in 2017 before the program was eliminated.

Representative John Kowalko


Please also read this letter by Deb Schultz:

There are many people who have been affected by the loss of this financial aid. The report of the elderly couple’s death ends with statements from unidentified state officials saying that use of the state prescription assistance program has ‘tapered off’ and that by 2020, there won’t be any doughnut hole anyway. Before the vote, I asked DHHS for usage data and got told it would be treated as a FOIA request. I did receive some numbers but not for the total life of the program, so I can’t really answer the question about use ‘tapering’ off over time. When the legislature ended the program, over 5000 beneficiaries were affected. Over three thousand were receiving actual payments; the remainder had also qualified for the federal drug assistance program and were using that instead of the state program. The 3000+ Delawareans who were drawing money from the state program make just that little bit more income that they don’t qualify for the federal help. So they were very dependent on the state help and suffered when it was withdrawn.

With regard to the so-called donut hole in Medicare drug plans, this is not going to become zero, ever. When it is ‘closed’, people will still be paying 25% of the cost of their drugs. All this does is make it slightly less impossible for poor people to pay for their drug deductibles and copays. The elderly couple in the news article were confronted with an increase in costs of $150 a month. To them, this was a budget-breaking amount. They were forced to decide between their vision or heat for the winter, literally.

When this budget was passed and the prescription assistance program was cut off on August 31, 2017, which meant people had to find help for the remaining months of 2017, help that wasn’t there, I wrote to every legislator telling them how bad a decision this was and how it would impact the beneficiaries using the program. As far as I know, only John Kowalko had actually spoken out forcefully against this cut. Smyk and Lopez and Schwartzkopf voted for this cut. Senator Lopez responded at length to me, defending the decision and saying that the legislature had given lots of thought to the tough problems it faced. He was upset because I had juxtaposed the legislators’ deep concerns over rich people having to pay estate tax with their lack of concern over poor people who couldn’t afford their drugs. But if you recall, there had been a great deal of discussion over the estate tax repeal and just about zero talk of the state prescription assistance program termination. Pete Schwartzkopf had argued that repealing the estate tax was really pretty insignificant because it only cost the state an average of 3 million in revenue a year. The funding needed for continuation of the state prescription assistance program is about 3 million a year.

I have never heard from Steve Smyk on this.

On Tuesday Nov. 28, Joanne and I went to the ‘bipartisan’ coffee held by Lopez and Schwartzkopf where the head of DHHS, Dr. Walker, was the speaker. She was asked directly about the re-institution of the state prescription assistance program and blew right past the question. Neither Lopez nor Schwartzkopf addressed the issue.

There is a deep resistance to thinking clearly about taxation and the function of the state. If the state helps out poor people with food or housing or medical care, that’s a reluctantly accepted burden that is given with more and more caveats and hoops to jump through. At the same time, the state happily gives breaks to the wealthy and to corporations and would love to give more; Lopez and Smyk are co-sponsors of bills like SB80/SS1, which gives Delmarva Power the right to semi-annual rate increases without having to provide proof of need at public utility hearings. But if you’re a food stamp recipient, there are legislators who think the state needs to regulate what you can buy.

Rich Collins responded to my letter about the loss of state prescription assistance with emails telling me that the answer was ‘more jobs’. Because then there would be more revenue and the state would have enough money to afford nice things again. Mr. Collins doesn’t want any tax increases; indeed, he feels very strongly that Delawareans and in particular ‘small businesses’ pay too much tax already. So I’m not sure how more jobs actually translates into more state revenue. But then, this sort of thinking is really just magical and comes down to feeling that if only everyone had money, there would be no problems and to have money, you just need a job.

The beneficiaries of the state prescription assistance program worked. But their jobs didn’t include pensions or retirement benefits. They live on small fixed incomes, mostly their Social Security annuity and maybe little monthly pensions from jobs with employers like Giant that they held for a decade or less. More and more people don’t have jobs with pensions, and even more folks retire without any employment health benefit after years of working. These people have no way to protect themselves from the yearly increases in medical costs, unlike retirees who have pensions and retirement health benefits, like retired State troopers and teachers and state or federal employees.

The reality is that the state prescription program is, in fact, a very small expenditure. And that in terms of total personal income and wealth, this state is rich. Now, thanks to the same votes that cut the prescription program, heirs of wealthy people will now no longer pay estate taxes. There’s something deeply wrong with this. The inequitable economic consequences of this vote are simply not justifiable.

Deb Schultz


GA 149 House Members

Paul S. Baumbach – 23 – D – paul.baumbach@state.de.us – 302-744-4351

David Bentz – 18 – D – david.bentz@state.de.us – 302-744-4351

Andria L. Bennett – 32 – D – andria.bennett@state.de.us  – 302-744-4351

Stephanie T. Bolden – 2 – D – stephaniet.bolden@state.de.us – 302-744-4351

Gerald L. Brady – 4 – D – gerald.brady@state.de.us – 302-744-4351

Ruth Briggs King – 37 – R – ruth.briggsking@state.de.us  – 302-744-4251

William J. Carson – 28 – R – william.carson@state.de.us – 302-744-4113

Richard Collins – 41 – R – r.collins@state.de.us

Timothy D. Dukes – 40 – R – timothy.dukes@state.de.us – 302-744-4171

Ronald E. Gray – 38 – R – ronald.gray@state.de.us – 302-744-4171

Debra J. Heffernan – 6 – D – debra.heffernan@state.de.us – 302-744-4351

Kevin Hensley – 9 – R – kevin.hensley@state.de.us  – 302-744-4171

Deborah Hudson – 12 – R – deborah.hudson@state.de.us – 302-744-4171

Earl G. Jaques Jr – 27 – D – earl.jaques@state.de.us – 302-744-4142

James Johnson – 16 – D – jj.johnson@state.de.us

Quinton Johnson – 8 – D – quinton.johnson@state.de.us – 302-744-4351

Helene M. Keeley – 3 – D – helene.keeley@state.de.us – 302-744-4351

Harvey R. Kenton – 36 – R – harvey.kenton@state.de.us – 302-744-4171

John A. Kowalko Jr. – 25 – D – jkowalko@verizon.net – 302-744-4351

Valerie Longhurst – 15 – D – valerie.longhurst@state.de.us  – 302-744-4351

Sean Lynn – 31 – D – sean.lynn@state.de.us – 302-744-4351

Sean Matthews – 10 – D – sean.matthews@state.de.us – 302-744-4351

Joseph E. Miro – 22 – R – joseph.miro@state.de.us – 302-744-4171

John L. Mitchell Jr. – 13 – D – john.l.mitchell@state.de.us – 302-744-4351

Michael P. Mulrooney – 17 – D – michael.mulrooney@state.de.us – 302-744-4351

Edward S. Osienski – 24 – D – edward.osienski@state.de.us – 302-744-4351

William R. “Bobby” Outten – 30 – R – bobby.outten@state.de.us – 302-744-4083

Charles Paradee – 29 – D – trey.paradee@state.de.us – 302-744-4351

Charles Postles – 33 – R – charles.postles@state.de.us – 302-744-4081

Charles Potter Jr – 1 – D – charles.potter@state.de.us –

Michael Ramone – 21 – R – michael.ramone@state.de.us – 302-744-4108

Peter Schwartzkopf – 14 – D – peter.schwartzkopf@state.de.us – 302-744-4351

Bryon H. Short – 7 – D – bryon.short@state.de.us  – 302-744-4297

Daniel B. Short – 39 – R – daniel.short@state.de.us – 302-744-4172

Melanie George Smith – 5 – D – melanie.g.smith@state.de.us – 302-744-4126

Stephen T. Smyk – 20 – R – steve.smyk@state.de.us – 302-744-4171

Jeffrey N. Spiegelman – 11 – R – jeff.spiegelman@state.de.us – 302-744-4171

John J. Viola – 26 – D – john.viola@state.de.us – 302-744-4351

Kimberly Williams – 19 – D – kimberly.williams@state.de.us – 302-744-4351

David L. Wilson – 35 – R – david.l.wilson@state.de.us – 302-744-4150

Lyndon Yearick – 34 – R – lyndon.yearick@state.de.us – 302-744-4171

GA 149 Senate Members

Colin R. J. Bonini – 16 – R – colin.bonini@state.de.us – 302-744-4169

Brian J. Bushweller – 17 – D – brian.bushweller@state.de.us – 302-744-4162

Catherine Cloutier – 5 – R – catherine.cloutier@state.de.us – 302-744-4197

Anthony Delcollo – 7 – R – anthony.delcollo@state.de.us – 302-744-4306

Bruce C. Ennis – 14 – D – bruce.ennis@state.de.us – 302-744-4310

Stephanie Hansen – 10 – D – stephanie.hansen@state.de.us – 302-744-3138

Margaret Rose Henry – 2 – D – margaretrose.henry@state.de.us – 302-744-4191

Gerald W. Hocker – 20 – R – gerald.hocker@state.de.us – 302-744-4144

Gregory F. Lavelle – 4 – R – greg.lavelle@state.de.us – 302-744-4048

David G. Lawson – 15 – R – dave.lawson@state.de.us – 302-744-4237

Ernesto B. Lopez – 6 – R – ernesto.lopez@state.de.us – 302-744-4136

Robert I. Marshall – 3 – D – robert.marshall@state.de.us – 302-744-4168

David B. McBride – 13 – D – david.mcbride@state.de.us – 302-744-4167

Harris B. McDowell III – 1 – D – harris.mcdowell@state.de.us – 302-744-4147

John Walsh – 9 – D – john.walsh@state.de.us – 302-744-4163

Brian Pettyjohn – 19 – R – brian.pettyjohn@state.de.us – 302-744-4048

Nicole Poore – 12 – D – nicole.poore@state.de.us – 302-744-4164

Bryant Richardson – 21 – R – bryant.richardson@state.de.us – 302-744-4298

Gary Simpson – 18 – R – gary.simpson@state.de.us – 302-744-4134

David P. Sokola – 8 – D – david.sokola@state.de.us – 302-744-4139

Bryan Townsend – 11 – D – bryan.townsend@state.de.us – 302-744-4165