The News Journal | Opinion | by Rep. John Kowalko
In a decision that I can only interpret as a betrayal of the core principles and ideals of any self-respecting Democrat, 10 members of Delaware’s Democratic Party House caucus joined the entire Republican House caucus and voted to pass HB 16.
The piece of legislation, introduced by Representative Mike Ramone and co-sponsored exclusively by Republicans, would effectively repeal Delaware’s Estate Tax with a significant and permanent loss of revenue.
In 2016 the estate tax brought in $9.3 million of needed revenue despite projections that it would garner only $3.5 million. Future conservative projections for ensuing years range from $3 to $5 million in revenue which would be forfeited, with this bill’s passage, in the midst of nearly $400 million yearly budget deficits.
The main instigators of this tax cut for the wealthy are the Chamber of Commerce (at the national level as well), the Business Roundtable, all of the Republican representatives and a few select Democrats some of who occupy seats on the finance committees.
The most startling occurrence during Thursday’s floor debate was Speaker of the House Schwartzkopf’s interruption of the floor discussion, thereby depriving the public, media and legislators of access to all the facts that make HB 16 such an abhorrent and harmful piece of legislation.
I feel obligated to relate some of those details that I had hoped to present on the House floor during the debate on HB 16.
Listed here are some of the programs that are targeted for elimination because of revenue shortfalls. These programs assist the poorest and most vulnerable citizens of Delaware enabling them to survive in a recessive economy during which the wealthy are getting wealthier and the poor left to their own devices. Forfeiting millions of dollars of revenue with passage of HB 16 will guarantee that some or all of the following proposed cuts will occur.
- Elimination of the Delaware Prescription Assistance Program (saving $2.5 million) available for a means tested destitute senior population that cannot afford their food and medicine at the same time.
- Elimination of the General assistance fund (saving $5 million) that provides a whopping $3 per day to a few thousand qualified recipients (including homeless and single moms) who are unemployed or unable to work and do not qualify for other benefits such as Social Security.
- $2.6 million saved by reducing the Medicaid Dental reimbursement (say goodbye to your rare dentist who is willing to see those poor children and pregnant moms).
- $1.4 million reduction to TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
- $5 million reduction in school tax credit currently allowed to seniors. This amounts to approx. $100 each and doesn’t even separate those that can better afford it with a means test.
- $3.5 million pupil transportation increase for traditional schools–shifting State/Local share from 90:10 to 85:15.
These cuts illustrate the harmful effects of another giveaway to the wealthiest among us at the expense of the poorest among us. When I began to explain and express the consequences of estate tax repeal on the floor of the House, the Speaker ruled that he would not permit me to speak any longer. Regardless of the Speaker’s actions and decision, I am obligated to submit this information to inform the public and my colleagues in the Senate of these harmful cuts and the potential consequences of the General Assembly’s actions regarding HB 16.
John Kowalko is the Democratic Representative of the 25th District.