As we head into a new General Assembly after an unprecedented year, it seems that not much has changed after all. We yet again hear from a leading Democratic politician – this time Sen. Dave McBride – about how our economy is just fine, thanks to our state government. He cites, as they often do, our “job growth” and “unemployment” rates, without letting on that any job counts as job growth. So, if you lose your $100,000 job and end up working two jobs at $12 per hour, that actually counts as an “improvement.”
So it’s time again for some truth, this time with proper citations.
For example, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics says that: Delaware has fewer manufacturing jobs in the fall of 2016 than we did in the fall of 2015. Our unemployment rate is 20th in the nation, behind Maryland and Virginia. Almost 10 percent of Delawareans in the workforce were unemployed or under-employed in 2015. New Castle County wages fell 3.7 percent over the 12-month period that ended in March of 2016, the most recent county level data.
On top of that, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia ranks Delaware 41st in economic growth on its most recent Coincident Index, which combines four state-level indicators over the last six months. Economic growth in the bottom 20 percent of states is unacceptable.
In addition to the economic struggles our neighbors and friends are facing, the state is heading into 2017 faced with a $350 million deficit, which is largely caused by a slower economy. And no doubt the Democrats who have ruled the Senate for 44 years are set to provide us with grand ideas for gas taxes, water taxes, property taxes and higher income taxes to fill the gap, with no meaningful cuts to a state government that is one of the highest-spending per person in the country.
My goal here isn’t to claim that Delaware is failing, or that it is a bad place to live. We have hardworking people with a great Delawarean ethic of community, and we have plenty of positives to point to. We have great independent small businesses that give character to our communities and employ thousands of Delawareans. We have dedicated teachers, first responders and nonprofits that help make life better for all of us. But we also have immense challenges, and for the good Senator to communicate to Delawareans that everything is rosy is irresponsible and inadequate.
That said, addressing these challenges requires a distinctly different approach than the one that got us to this point. We need to focus directly on these specific problems, and move away from the current Democratic approach of focusing on secondary issues that divide us along lines of race and gender. Jobs, schools and crime need to be prioritized over current Democratic priorities like letting felons vote before they’ve paid restitution to their victims and paying off political allies with control of state construction. Senate Republicans have offered many ideas to fix not only our struggling economy, but many other problems affecting Delaware as well. Unfortunately, the Democrat majority has blocked our efforts nearly every time.
I stand ready – as do all of my colleagues in the Senate Republican Caucus – to work with each and every forward-thinking Delawarean to make real, measurable and sustainable progress in the First State. We have much to be proud of, but we have a long, long way to go before we start spiking the football. That economic growth will be led not by the politicians and bureaucrats in the state government, but instead by brave and strong people in the private sector – our friends and neighbors whose entrepreneurial spirit is second to none.
Gary Simpson (R-Milford) is the Delaware senate minority leader.