Taxpayer funded jobs program clears state senate
Delaware is closer to creating it’s own New Deal style jobs program after the state senate approved the bill 13-7 largely along party lines Thursday.
It’s been a cornerstone of Sen. Bob Marshall’s (D-Wilmington West) agenda for the past year, constantly and consistently raising the issue at most forums he’s attended as part of his bid for Wilmington mayor.
He says it’ll help lift up blighted neighborhoods in the city and beyond that are filled with out of work men and women who maybe can’t get a job because of their criminal record or because of a lack of education or training.
Like similar programs during the Great Depression in the 1930s and 1940s, Marshall hopes these people’s manual labor can go toward public projects or nonprofit work to benefit communities.
“This creates the same kind of opportunity, but a new day and a new time, where some may be able to find employment, earn an honest day’s pay, learn a trade of some kind,” he said.
As with most issues at Legislative Hall, the fight is over how to fund it.
Marshall wants to set aside up to $2 million of Strategic Fund money every year to either pay workers through the state or through nonprofits.
The Strategic Fund typically bankrolls tax breaks or cash payments to businesses that promise to expand or bring jobs to Delaware.
Republicans have blasted the ways the Markell Administration has used the fund in the past, calling it "corporate welfare", but they rallied around it Thursday afternoon.
Sen. Dave Lawson (R-Marydel) raised concerns that hiring anyone could reset the clock on their unemployment benefits, in turn costing taxpayers even more money.
“Those people then become unemployed and the state gets the rebound again of having to pay that unemployment. I just see this as not maybe the best use of the money that’s out there. I think the Strategic Fund was put in place to help develop opportunities, but not actually create the jobs,” Lawson said.
Sen. Brian Bushweller, a Dover Democrat, also pushed back, saying the bill would take up a big chunk of the Strategic Fund, which has a proposed budget of $10 million next year.
“By taking 20 percent of the budget for this purpose, we’re very much working at cross purposes, because we’re taking away resources from the very entity of state government whose mission it is to encourage the creation of new jobs in the private sector.”
Bushweller ended up voting for the bill's passage, as well as Sen. Bryant Richardson (R-Laurel), who was a part of the committee that created the recommendations.
The House and Gov. Jack Markell (D) still have to sign off on it before it becomes law.