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Delaware and Maryland utility commissions have one more shot to convince electric grid regulators to lower the cost of the Artificial Island Transmission Line.  Governors Markell and Hogan have joined forces to fight the burdensome cost of this project, but a new approach is needed.  If we want to win this fight we need to negotiate using an alternative approach.  More local power generation could replace the transmission line.  This could lead to lower electric rates instead of higher rates, to a more robust economy, and to improved electric reliability.

 

The Artificial Island project is a technical response to importation of power.  Maryland and Delaware are the second and fifth highest electricity importing states in the country.  In 2015 Maryland imported 41% of its power, and Delaware imported 32%.

 

Importing power lowers electric grid reliability.  It also adds cost.  Regional grid manager, PJM Interconnection, is responsible for maintaining reliability with a combination of pricing mechanisms, and transmission line policy.  There are line charges to compensate for longer power transmission distances, congestion charges to encourage lower peak demand, and capacity charges to encourage more local generation.  See the graph below to see how these premiums can go.  These premium charges roughly equal the added monthly costs of the proposed transmission line, are already added to our electric bills, and most of the cost will continue even if the new transmission line is built!

 

Cost Premiums in Delaware & Maryland for Grid Congestion and Transmission Cost

dave stevenson Artificial Island

Source: PJM Interconnection Real Time Statistics

So, how do we boost local generation?  Start by asking electric generation and distribution companies already invested in the state what state policies would encourage more generation.  State policies led to lower local generation in very real ways and changed policies can help reverse the trend.  Prepare to kill some sacred cows when we hear the answers.

 

Maryland and Delaware are the only two states in the thirteen state PJM region with a tax on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.  The cost of that tax is passed on as a hidden tax on electric bills.  Our generating facilities burning coal and natural gas have to charge more, and lose bids to supply power.  Consequently, local power plants operate less frequently.  For example, the Indian River power plant in Millsboro, Delaware, is only operating 20% of the time compared to an average of 55% for coal fired plants nationally.

 

The tax was designed to reduce emissions but all it has really done is shifted the emissions out of state, and discouraged power plant construction locally.  The revenue was supposed to be used for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, but after a decade of work only a quarter of annual tax revenue is being spent on such projects.  Ending the tax would lower electricity prices and would allow more power to be generated locally.

 

In Delaware we only need to build the equivalent of three to four new power plants to become self-sufficient.  Calpine recently completed a new natural gas fired power unit in Dover and has the permits needed for a second unit.  What incentive does Calpine need to build the second unit?

 

Exelon recently acquired Delmarva Power, the state’s largest electric distribution company, and is one of the largest generation companies in the nation.  A decade ago distribution companies owned all the generation facilities as well with a guaranteed rate of return regulated by the Public Service Commission.  Delaware and Maryland joined a handful of other states in deregulating the price of generated power thinking this would increase competition and lower electric cost.  The actual result was the sale of generating facilities and a 70% increase in electric rates in the deregulated states.  Partial reregulation might encourage distribution companies to build at least some new generation capacity.

 

Exelon is one of the largest builders of large scale solar farms in the country.  A little known fact is utility scale solar is now essentially competitive with conventional power plants during high demand daylight hours.  Delaware policy has emphasized building smaller scale systems that actually add cost to our electric bills.  Yes, in this case bigger is better and a policy change is needed.

 

Land acquisition is a barrier to building more solar.  The state could offer marginal state owned open space land for long term lease for solar farms to lower start-up costs.  The revenue could be used for state park operations.

 

No doubt a dialogue to boost local power generation would uncover more opportunities.  The result would not only avoid the added cost of the Artificial Island project but might lower existing electric rates by as much as 15% removing a barrier to job creation, and could lead to up to a billion dollars in new construction projects.   

David T. Stevenson, Director

Center for Energy Competitiveness

                               

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Every year, the General Assembly finds a way to balance the budget, as they are required to do by our state constitution, or at least use accounting gimmicks to move spending around so future liabilities aren’t held against the current FY budget.

This year, the state’s “in a pickle”, so to speak, or maybe something to do with scrapple would fit better. There is a budget deficit in the neighborhood of $70 million, which increased after legislators caved to state employee demands not to pay additional expenses for their healthcare policies due to a wage freeze for most state employees, a freeze which has lasted for years. Not only did they not make this move at the request of Governor Markell, but they added $21 million to the deficit with money we don’t have to keep their constituents happy.

Meanwhile, the state wants money to pay for infrastructure spending, cleaning up the waterways, investing in startups/businesses to grow the economy, paying for increased Medicaid and public education expenses, services for the increasing number of senior citizens retiring into Delaware, and so on. As spending goes up, the state is collecting less from casino revenue and  personal and corporate income taxes than in previous years. You can see where we’re going to run into problems, and we’ve predicted for some time that the next governor of Delaware is going to have a serious fiscal mess to fix.

So what do our elected officials have in mind to balance the budget? Some new ideas include: raising state income taxes on top earners from 6.7% to 7.6%, increase Delaware’s per-gallon gas tax, motor vehicle fees, and taxes levied on wholesale fuel deliveries to fund new road and bridge improvements, increasing the gross receipts tax, reduce corporate income taxes, eliminating the estate tax, and actually cutting personal income taxes across the board.

“There’s not going to be a split of these issues that will give us the transportation money and we’ll figure this out later,” Lavelle told the News Journal. “I didn’t fall off the banana truck yesterday. I’ve been fooled more than once down there and it ain’t going to happen again.”

Did you see what was missing among these ideas? Ways to cut state spending. This is how our state does “the water dance,” similar to how many indigenous tribes around the world pray for rain; they do a symbolic dance and hope the sky will open up and rain will just fall and provide much-needed water to grass and crops so they will grow and life can continue. Replace the actual dancing with accounting “dancing” (tricks), and the rainfall with moneyfall, and otherwise the concept is the same.

Now some of this has already been done; we know the state Department of Education is about to take a big hit, as Legislators have become increasingly opposed to the Governor’s education plan, which includes Secretary Murphy. Race To The Top funds are phasing out and school district referendums continue to alternate between passing and failing, which means some districts have found themselves cutting back on spending and hiring while freezing wages for some district employees.

Yet when we see the final budget, which must be passed by June 30, where else will the state consider making cuts? Senator Lavelle went on record suggesting that tax increase were off the table unless the prevailing wage law is reformed or repealed. Will Delaware Democrats be willing to stand up to their union supporters and change the prevailing wage law?

Another way the state could make cuts is to get us out of RGGI, which is a regional cap and trade scheme. RGGI does not do anything for the environment, but it does increase our electric bills by an average of $50/year per household, and thousands more per year for most industrial businesses, who have most of the remaining few manufacturing jobs Delaware still has. Will the GA make an effort to pull us out of RGGI?

Delaware has plenty of room where cuts could be made, the only determination will be whether they make them or not. In the meantime, please visit caesarrodney.org

for the latest news and information you can use to learn about our state’s fiscal situation and click on the “Impact Delaware” link to learn more about how you can make a positive impact on Delaware.

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Rational thought underlies conservative Christian views on climate change and the environment
by Dr. David R. Legates
Although he has rarely been willing to discuss or debate energy or environmental issues with those who do not share his views, environmentalist David Suzuki frequently challenges them on other grounds. In his recent article, “Religious Right is wrong about climate change,” Suzuki claims that some US and Canadian scientists hold religious views that are “anti-science”.
Suzuki asserts that some climate scientists – including me, by name – put “misguided beliefs above rational thought.” His implicit assumption is that conservative Christian views are irrational and incompatible with science, and that I have replaced Almighty God with the “almighty dollar,” believing the economy matters more than the environment.
As a co-author of the Cornwall Alliance’s Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Examination of the Theology, Science and Economics of Global Warming, which forms the basis for the Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming that Suzuki criticizes, I know the Cornwall Alliance fully and carefully integrates scientific, economic, ethical and theological reasoning to support its conclusions. There’s nothing at all irrational about it – unless you consider religion irrational per se.
However, Suzuki is correct regarding one aspect of my belief: the economy does matter as much as the environment. Good environmental stewardship requires sound financial footing – and improving and safeguarding human health and welfare requires maintaining a strong, vibrant, innovative economy that can sustain continued environmental progress.
When a country is in dire need of food, clothing, shelter and other necessities for life, it cannot possibly be concerned with environmental issues. The poor people of India pour untreated sewage into the Ganges River – and then draw their drinking and “cleaning” water from it. So poor that they’re desperate simply for survival, they cannot possibly concern themselves with environmental stewardship. Only when economic improvements allow technological advancements to increase the quality of life, provide ample food and clothing, house citizens, provide clean drinking water, and treat and eradicate diseases can a thus wealthier society turn its attention to caring for the environment.
That is precisely what has happened in more developed nations. As the United States and Canada advanced economically, we developed technologies and policies that increased our quality and length of life. In turn, this has led us to be more proactive with our environmental stewardship.
We emit far less pollution and waste today, both per person and per unit of production, than we did fifty years ago. We feed more people with every parcel of land, we get more energy from every drop of oil, we are more efficient at everything we do, and we are much better stewards of our environment. But none of that could have occurred without a strong and developing economy.
Unfortunately, some so-called environmentalists wish to keep Africa and other developing nations in perpetual underdevelopment. They pay them off to be “environmentally conscious,” by giving them handouts – food and monetary aid – to keep them alive and perhaps have little solar panels on their huts. But they also ensure that those poor families never prosper or become middle class – so as to perpetuate environmentalist notions of “noble natives,” supposedly “at one” with their environment and living a “sustainable” existence.
Equally harmful, much of that money is lost to corruption, while the people are forced to continue living in a state of poverty, disease, malnutrition and deprivation, as technologies that could enhance their length and quality of life are denied to them. Among the technologies denied are modern seeds, fertilizers, and high-tech, high-yield farming methods to increase food supplies; natural gas and electricity to heat homes and cook food, instead of cutting down forests and burning wood, thereby degrading indoor air quality and causing lethal lung infections; refrigeration so that people do not have to choose between eating spoiled food and going hungry; and the use of insecticides, including the powerful insect repellant DDT, to spare them from the agonizing illness and death brought on by malaria.
Each of these enhancements requires plentiful, dependable, affordable energy. Yet in the name of “saving the planet” or “preventing cataclysmic climate change,” environmentalists like Suzuki deny developing countries the modern technologies and energy they need to improve their lives and environment – thereby perpetuating high infant mortality, significantly shortened life spans, and greatly decreased quality of life.
Climate alarmism is the rationale for these deadly policies – and that is where political ideology mixes with the new religion of environmentalism. Overstated or non-existent threats to the environment, along with impractical or imaginary ways to prevent the purported threats, are the new scripture on which the adherents develop their theologies and policies for directing and micromanaging the course of human events. Unfortunately, these eco-religionists never encounter (or intentionally avert their eyes from) the misery and devastation that their policies dramatically inflict on the world’s poorest people. That is because they are too concerned with “saving the planet.”
Back in North America, some wish to have energy rationed or be made increasingly expensive, creating artificial fuel poverty for millions. Such policies will make food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and medical care – in short, everything – more expensive and scarce, create more unemployed workers, push many people back into conditions of poverty and deprivation, and gravely impair human health and welfare. This strategy will not save the planet, as they hope, because one of its first casualties will be environmental stewardship. History and human nature both testify that, forced by economic limits to choose between a cleaner environment and food on the table, people always choose food.
In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus told of a master who gave one of his servants a single talent, and then condemned him for hiding it in the earth and not putting it to use. Often we think of the talent only as money or ability, but it really stands for every resource – including natural resources. How will the Master of all creation judge us if we hide our resources in the earth, and then on Judgment Day say, “Behold, you have what is yours”?
If we do not use the resources God has set before us in the earth to care for those in need, our Creator will likely condemn us, saying: “You kept buried what I gave you, instead of using and investing it. You failed to employ my gifts to care for the poor, the hungry, the sick, and those who were dying from disease. You have been worthless, irresponsible stewards of my creation.” We would deserve the same fate as the servant the master called “wicked and lazy.”
I fail to understand how anyone thinking rationally can argue that poverty and economic hardship will enhance environmental stewardship, or that the planet is more important than the people who live on it.
_________
David R. Legates is a Professor of Climatology at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware, USA. He is a Christian and a senior fellow of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. He is a member of CRI’s Advisory Council.

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Division of Energy and Climate in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC)

If you missed this story, Delaware has a new “climate action plan” based on dubious data which assumes more state control of private land use will somehow save us from “man-caused climate change”. Below is our response.

For the most part, the state’s new climate plan could have been titled “Let’s Plan for the Storm of the Century”, a basically sound idea. Unfortunately, the plan also promotes a continuing un-Constitutional effort of the state to take over land use planning from the counties and municipalities. It also promotes the concept there will be catastrophic impacts from global warming which some key state leaders follow with religious like fervor. The facts show no upward trend in global average temperatures for the last eighteen years, and point to modest impacts on our environment from global warming.

Recent lawsuits have upheld local control of land use issues, as delegated by the Delaware Constitution, by over turning state attempts to write land use regulations. The state Strategic Planning Office must approve local land use plans as it relates to state funded infrastructure such as highways. Some key goals of the climate plan are directed at influencing land use planning. The office is adding a request local land use plans consider climate change, and will enforce it by weighing infrastructure investment in favor of localities that include climate considerations that conform to the state plan.

Additionally, DNREC will specifically use their excessive estimates of global warming induced sea level rise estimates and increased rainfall estimates to push for more control over storm water management (an issue already involved in a lawsuit), shoreline management, beach replenishment, and expanded tidal wetlands maps. DELDOT will use the presumption of more temperature influenced high ozone days to consider driving restrictions during air quality events. DEDO will encourage real estate agents to spread out weekly beach rentals to different start dates, an idea which has some merit but will be disruptive to the tourist industry. It should be noted all of these efforts will likely lead to higher cost for private industry.

The climate plan forecasts sea level rise from greenhouse gas induced global warming at 1.5 to 5 feet by 2100, and used three feet to develop Flood Risk Adaptation Maps which will be used for state planning purposes. Meanwhile, the report also quotes the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration estimates of only 1.1 feet of sea level rise by 2100, including about half that amount from localized land subsidence at the Lewes Tide Gauge, an amount roughly equal to sea level rise that occurred during the twentieth century. Most of the state is not subsiding, and land height actually increases for estuaries from deposition of sediments from upstream erosion. A realistic expectation is about six inches of sea level rise by 2100.

The plan also assumes rainfall will increase during major storms because of global warming. Even the UN climate change report admits no linkage has been confirmed between global warming and storm intensity.

The state wants to abandon the use of Federal Emergency Management Agency hundred year Flood Insurance Rate Maps which look at historic trends and current flood plain data. The complaint is these maps don’t forecast future trends. We submit the FEMA maps are updated frequently enough to be used for infrastructure planning over the likely lifespan of most infrastructure projects. The use of DNREC’s Flood Risk Adaptation Maps uses questionable forecasts and will result in un-needed additional expense for both the state and private interests. The expanded wetland maps will take a large amount of private land without compensation.

Climate change estimates will be used to force a review of electric rates by the Public Service Commission which could lead to higher rates. The Department of Health & Human Services wants to increase low-income fuel assistance even though higher average temperatures would have a net impact of lowering utility bills as much more money is spent on heating then on cooling. Every state agency has an action step in the plan to increase education of the reality and impacts of catastrophic climate change, an effort some would call propaganda.

Finally, the state has adopted a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 30% by 2030 from a 2008 base year. The plan admits carbon dioxide emissions were already reduce by 25% by 2010 and so is looking for an additional 5% reduction from new initiatives by 2030. Appendix C of the plan provides the key assumptions used in developing emission forecasts. The plan used the U.S. Energy Information Agency 2009 forecast which assumed carbon dioxide emissions would increase 0.7% a year to 2030. The more recent EIA 2014 forecast assumes emissions will decrease by 0.2% a year. Based on the more recent forecast, the 30% reduction target will be met without any new initiatives needed.

The legislature, and all Delaware citizens, should question any legislation, budget, or regulatory changes driven by the “Climate Framework for Delaware”.

Dave T. Stevenson, Policy Director

Center for Energy Competitiveness

Caesar Rodney Institute

                                              

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Over the weekend the New York Times did a hit piece on a man named Dr. Willie Soon, an astrophysicist still employed with the  Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA, because his superiors haven’t figured out how to completely get rid of him.

Disclosure: Dr. Soon was employed with the Caesar Rodney Institute from November 2012-April 2013. He wrote two articles on climate science and made one appearance with CRI Advisor Dr. David Legates. Their presentation can be viewed here and here. Their PowerPoint is available here.

From the New York Times:

“For years, politicians wanting to block legislation on climate change have bolstered their arguments by pointing to the work of a handful of scientists who claim that greenhouse gases pose little risk to humanity.

One of the names they invoke most often is Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who claims that variations in the sun’s energy can largely explain recent global warming. He has often appeared on conservative news programs, testified before Congress and in state capitals, and starred at conferences of people who deny the risks of global warming.

But newly released documents show the extent to which Dr. Soon’s work has been tied to funding he received from corporate interests.

He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as “deliverables” that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.”

Stop for a moment. They argue that because “corporations” fund Dr. Soon’s research, he must be doing this only to please his fossil-fuel company corporate masters who “deny” the climate “science” because of their capitalist greed. Yet the same people doing the attacking happily accept money from groups or people like The Ford Foundation, Climate Action Fund, Tom Steyer, 11th Hour Project (founded by Wendy Schmidt, wife of Google CEO Eric Schmidt), the United Nations, government agencies invested in proving man-made climate change in order to increase taxes and regulations, other businesses involved in the green energy movement, etc., yet somehow their contributions or motives for proving man-made climate change theories as fact are not questioned in this article.

We knew at the time Dr. Soon joined CRI he had received money in the past from those in the energy sector (we didn’t know how much though) who have an interest in preventing carbon taxes and the like from ruining their businesses. But do you blame them? The radical environmentalist movement has an agenda to destroy “fossil fuels” and anyone who stands opposed to the unnecessary growth of government control over the private sector. Note that he doesn’t get money for his research because the people giving grants cut him off for his disagreement, and he does have two small kids he has to provide for. If he cannot compete fairly for grant money because his work does not fit in with what his employers want (that humans are destroying the planet and only government regulations and carbon taxes can save us), then where else do people expect him to get money for his income?

“Environmentalists have long questioned Dr. Soon’s work, and his acceptance of funding from the fossil-fuel industry was previously known. But the full extent of the links was not; the documents show that corporate contributions were tied to specific papers and were not disclosed, as required by modern standards of publishing.

Though he has little formal training in climatology, Dr. Soon has for years published papers trying to show that variations in the sun’s energy can explain most recent global warming. His thesis is that human activity has played a relatively small role in causing climate change.

Many experts in the field say that Dr. Soon uses out-of-date data, publishes spurious correlations between solar output and climate indicators, and does not take account of the evidence implicating emissions from human behavior in climate change.”

Naturally we never find out who the “many experts in the field” are because they are not cited. Also we note that those who criticize Dr. Soon’s research do not point out the specifics where he is wrong or where his data is out of date.

“Dr. Oreskes, the Harvard science historian, said that academic institutions and scientific journals had been too lax in recent decades in ferreting out dubious research created to serve a corporate agenda.

“I think universities desperately need to look more closely at this issue,” Dr. Oreskes said. She added that Dr. Soon’s papers omitting disclosure of his corporate funding should be retracted by the journals that published them.”

CRI has this problem too. We are accused by our detractors of being “right-wing nuts,” yet our work, coming directly from public sources, is not challenged on its merits. Assumptions are made because we don’t support the “general consensus” on issues like Sea Level Rise, Prevailing Wage, and carbon taxes.Personal attacks are used in place of debate.

Now environmental policy is only a minor part of CRI’s platform. To the extent we cover environmental policy we do so in the forms of how it will affect energy policy or civil liberties. Policy Director Dave Stevenson prefers to focus on energy-related issues and keep away from the overall climate-change debate because it isn’t our main focus, with the exception of stopping the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and carbon taxes. We are not suggesting alternative energies are bad or that we as humans don’t cause environmental problems we need to resolve. However, given the nature of the attacks and the source it comes from, we feel this should be addressed from our end. If you believe people like Dr. Soon are wrong, then prove it with your own data and not just broad assumptions about who your opponents are.

As for whether Dr. Soon’s papers meet academic guidelines, we have no dog in that fight and no comment.

We stand by the material which is up on our website and until someone provides credible evidence that Dr. Legates’ and Dr. Soon’s data is incorrect, we will leave it up.

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wallpaperput.com

2015 will soon be upon us and for those who are passionate defenders of freedom and liberty our work just goes on when the clock strikes midnight. Here is CRI in review and our goals for 2015:

  • Dave Stevenson’s lawsuit against DNREC and former DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara is still ongoing. Dave and the other three plaintiffs, including CRI Director John Moore, won standing to continue their lawsuit. We will refrain from making a prediction on a court ruling less we jinx the lawsuit but we are optimistic the Plaintiffs will win. This is because in order to get standing the Plaintiffs had to prove they had a valid reason to sue in the first place, such as being aggrieved by the Defendants actions. Winning means stopping DNREC from changing the rules on how many carbon permits can be sold at carbon auctions, saving Delaware taxpayers over $100 million a year in increases in utility bills.
  • We testified in favor of HB353, the Parent Empowerment Education Savings Account Act (PEESAA). Jim Hosley, our former CEE Director, spoke in favor as did a dozen Wilmington parents and grandparents (and one student!) and the leaders of Tall Oak Classical Academy. The bill was tabled in the House Education Committee, a move we are unfortunately not surprised by. However, we hope 2015 will be a better year as more and more people realize the need to improve Delaware’s education system, and the only effective way to make the changes our students need to be prepared for the future is to provide parents with school choice options to do what’s best for the child. CRI will always maintain the belief that parents and/or legal guardians can make a better choice about their children’s education than politicians and bureaucrats in the state Department of Education.
  • We brought in Dr. Bartley Danielsen, business and economics professor from North Carolina State University to keynote our Sixth Annual Dinner. Dr. Danielsen has proposed a theory tying in environmental benefits to school choice. The basic theory is, parents moved to the suburbs to flee poorly performing public schools which left a lot of people uneducated and unable to find respectable work, and many turned to crime as a result. His theory is if inner city schools were to improve their quality, many families would move back to the cities from the suburbs and the result would be a reduction in traffic and environmental pollution from people driving from the suburbs to the cities. View is presentation here and here

In addition to these challenges, we still have issues Delaware must resolve in order to improve our economy:

  • End to the prevailing wage which makes public construction costs so expensive many end up getting no work at all. See: Rockwood Museum.
  • A Right to Work law for Delaware. Union leaders are pushing the “scab” theory that somehow union members will drop out and reap all the benefits the union “works” to get. We have responded by noting that a) manufacturing businesses have responded by moving factories elsewhere, depriving Delawareans of job opportunities. See: loss of auto industry, Valero plant, Evraz Steel plant, Georgia Pacific plant. b) as a moral issue, should union bosses have the right to take someone’s money just because someone works at a particular location? What if the union bosses don’t serve their member’s needs, such as organizing or donating to political causes or candidates the members don’t support?

We wrote: “While in the short run unionization may force wages up for those involved, in the long run closed shops reduce capital spending and induce the out-migration of jobs and workers.”

Read HERE and HERE and HERE

  • tax reform. Delaware is one of just five states with a gross receipts tax (tax on sales, even before factoring in profit/loss and expenses). Three of the other four don’t have an income tax and the only state with both like Delaware is Virginia who has lower tax rates. Coupled with high corporate and personal income taxes while Nevada and North Dakota compete with us for corporate business, and without reforms we will see money and jobs leave the state at even higher numbers.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year to all. Let’s be thankful for a good 2014 and hope for better things in 2015.

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Happy Thanksgiving! We hope you have a happy and safe holiday.

For this week’s post we are going to respond to the post of blogger Lyman Stone, a grad student at George Washington University’s Elliott School. In his November 21 blogpost titled “North Dakota, Illinois, and Delaware: A Boom State, a Struggler, and a Winner”, he wrote about Delaware’s migration and why the state has had an overall increase in people from 2000-2010 (source: U.S. Census). His top four points and our response:

1. “Many of the people Delaware loses, as I’ve already shown, are richer people. That is to say, Delaware is exporting its richer people (many of them retirees) to states like Arizona, Florida, Virginia, and Texas. Meanwhile, it is inundated with floods of lower-income, somewhat less-educated individuals. Delaware’s in-migration includes very high rates of retiree migration and migration of the young.”

Delaware lost roughly $480 million in net wealth from 2000-2010, predominately from New Castle County (source irs.gov). Some of that wealth went across the border to Chester/Media, PA; many of the top 1% retired to Florida or Arizona, but many people did stay in Delaware and moved to Kent or Sussex Counties where property is even cheaper and cost of living is lower than New Castle County. Delaware’s low property taxes attract retirees mainly from DC, MD, NJ, and NY. Young people move to New Castle County for the corporate jobs. But Lyman is missing this point: Families with school-age children tend not to stay in Delaware. (see here and here). Unless the parents can afford a private school or get to a good charter school, the parents more often than not leave for PA. A graph within the presentations in the links shows a huge drop-off with parents with at least one child aged 5 or older leaving for places like Valley Forge or Media while parents with children 0-4 stay in Delaware. So it’s like “come when you’re young, leave when you have a family, return when you’re ready to retire”.

2. “Once again, like Illinois, Delaware has lots of high-traffic borders and nearby border metro areas, thus we can fruitfully look to policy variables as one part of the explanation. Delaware has income taxes at a similar rate to most of its regional peers (though much higher than Virginia’s) and is in the minority of states in that it still has an estate tax. In that regard, it is peculiar that so many retirees would choose it.

That is, until we recall Delaware’s three most salient tax features: it has no sales tax (thus reducing cost of living), among the lowest property taxes in the nation (reducing cost of living), and funds its infrastructure through tolls and user fees more than any other state (reducing burdens on people who drive less: young and old). Its taxes overwhelmingly fall on businesses, but it attracts businesses by offering highly favorable legal and regulatory conditions.”

Delaware has a gross-receipts tax, a tax on business revenue BEFORE profit and loss is considered. Only Virginia has both a gross receipts and income tax, both of those rates are lower there than Delaware. The result has been that Delaware has had more businesses closing than opening and we are 51st in the country in jobs created by existing firms (Source: deconfirst.com). This means no state or DC is worse than Delaware at getting businesses already here to hire more people. The state is very good at helping start-ups but not good at helping established businesses, especially medium-sized businesses.

Delaware’s Court of Chancery is known for its fairness, and incorporation laws are lax. This is favorable to larger businesses to want to headquarter here, which is why the Wilmington area has so many corporate offices with high-paying administrative jobs. This is a good thing for the state but again, this benefits larger businesses and not small- or medium- sized businesses.

3. The net result of Delaware’s policy choices is that “New Economy Index” produced by the liberal-leaning Progressive Policy Institute ranks the 2nd best in the nation, the conservative-leaning American Legislative Exchange scores 27th in their “Rich States, Poor States” publication, the business-backed Tax Foundation (disclosure: my former employer) ranks 14th-best, and even the libertarian Mercatus Center identifies as 17th “most free” in their Freedom in the 50 States report. A report by 24/7 Wall Street found Delaware to be the 13th best-run state in the nation, and academic measures of state corruption rank Delaware no worse than middle-of-the-pack. In fact, it is a real challenge to find any organization that scores Delaware poorly on any major policy metric or index.

Corruption in Delaware is not as bad as it is in places like Illinois, Rhode Island, California, or Louisiana. But saying it’s “good” is more on an indicator of how corrupt those states are. Delaware’s small size means “everyone knows everyone” attitude impacts the government but the state is not very forthcoming with state pension data or with how education dollars are being spent. That said, we are better than every other Mid-Atlantic state besides Virginia. We posted on the Tax Foundation’s analysis.

4. Likewise, Delaware has one of the lowest average price levels of any state in the region (except Virginia), and that price level is lowest in southern Delaware, where in-migration is highest.

I’ve repeatedly cast Delaware as a state that’s providing opportunities: for the young, for the less educated, and also for regional retirees who may not have the money for a bigger relocation to Texas or Florida (or who may not want to pay property and sales taxes in those states). That’s because Delaware’s migration record is simply the strongest across the most different categorizations of almost any state, especially among states without major oil and gas reserves. I’d love to hear more from people familiar with Delaware on how the state attracts people: beaches with rising popularity? corporate headquarters? retirement communities? strong university recruitment? sprawl from Philadelphia?

To Lyman’s final point, Delaware IS a very attractive place between Philly and Baltimore/DC. We are a train ride or short drive from all three cities and only three hours from New York City. The Beaches draw in tourists and retirees, and there is some Philly sprawl in the Claymont area. But Delaware is beginning to lose our status is a “tax haven”, now that Nevada and North Dakota are competing with us for our corporate business. The state spends way too much money and like most states will suffer from having to choose between Medicaid and public education once the federal government cuts back on its Obamacare obligations by 2019. Our three casinos are losing money and, barring a change in visitor habits ore legislative policy, will go out of business; 6% of our state’s revenue comes from casino taxes. We have a state carbon tax and cap-and-trade system (Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative) which is costing so much money CRI’s Energy Policy Director Dave Stevenson and our board member John Moore are suing DNREC to prevent a new carbon tax fee from being imposed on residents and businesses.

Delaware’s population is aging at a faster rate than the nation as a whole; right now half the state receives Medicare or Medicaid. By 2030 that number will be closer to 67% at current migration rates. Sussex County is already 25% senior citizens and that number grows ever year. As much as we at CRI love our seniors, someone has to help pay for Medicare/Social Security/ public housing assistance/public transportation, and other quality-of-life benefits seniors need to enjoy their retirement since we know the Feds won’t meet their future obligations.
Because of its strong migration record in a highly competitive area, other states could benefit from studying Delaware’s experience and determining which policies they can adopt for their own states.

Please don’t pass a gross receipts tax or block natural gas pipeline from reaching your states. We have high electricity prices and a mediocre public education system. Don’t be so aggressive and seizing abandoned property, even down to the Amazon gift cards which went unused. End the prevailing wage and establish a Right-to-Work law if your state doesn’t have one yet.

What do you think about Lyman’s blog post or our response?

Please consider eliminating your state’s sales tax and lowering property taxes, and have a court system which is seen as quick, efficient, and fair.

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