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Senate GOP lawmakers take aim at poverty

Delaware Public Media

Incentivizing education through tax credits, stimulating private businesses and looking for private investors to bankroll government pilot programs are among initiatives being floated by Senate Republicans to reduce the state’s poverty ranking by 2024.



The eleven initiatives unveiled Wednesday are wide-ranging, with a handful of them already enjoying bipartisan support.


Those include efforts to make the state portion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) refundable and overhaul Delaware’s occupational licensing system.


Rep. Paul Baumbach (D-Newark) is moving forward with his EITC bill in the House and Gov. Jack Markell (D) mentioned ongoing talks in reviewing how the state licenses its professionals during his State of the State Address in January.


Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley) says the goal is to invest more money toward helping lift people out of poverty – and ultimately slashing how much the state spends on entitlement programs like welfare and Medicaid.


“That’s a good thing – to not grow those programs, to help people gain self-sufficiency and all the positive human attributes that come with full time work and responsible families and all that is good for the human spirit,” Lavelle said.


Delaware’s poverty rate stands at 12.5 percent according to the U.S. Census Bureau. For example, a family of four making about $23,000 a year is considered to be in poverty.


Some of the other ideas include carving out at least $3.5 million in new tax credits to fund workforce-training, apprenticeships and for low-income students to go to private school.


Another would allow private, home chefs and bakers to sell their food in public, as long as they hold certain licenses and insurance.


Senate Pro Tem Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere) issued a statement saying she doesn’t agree with some aspects of the plan and that it could divert resources away from proven programs, but she calls it a good faith effort.


State Democratic Party chairman John Daniello was more critical, saying, “While we are eager to find ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness in our social programs, fighting poverty in our cities and rural communities must not be left to corporate incentives.”


Republicans compared that to partisan Washington, D.C. bickering that’s grid locked Congress for years and not an attitude that benefits Delawareans.


Details on the individual proposals will be introduced in the coming months.