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New clean water bill faces opposition over proposed funding mechanism

Delaware Public Media

Some Delaware lawmakers want to find more money to invest in water infrastructure improvements.

Legislation creating a clean water trust fund cleared a House committee this week.

The bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear) , also creates a five-member board to oversee the fund. It would have the authority to issue bonds.

But Longhurst’s bill changes the way previous bills have proposed funding infrastructure projects. Instead of a new tax, $25 million annually would be raised by diverting certain percentages of revenue from the general fund. Under Longhurst’s measure, the revenue stream would come from the state’s share of personal income tax, gross receipts, corporate income tax and the realty transfer fee.

Longhurst said nine other states use general fund money to pay for water quality projects.

“This isn’t something that just came out of the sky to implement into this piece of legislation to find a revenue," she said. "We have to in this in this state have to find a revenue resource for clean water.”

But Gov. John Carney (D) said he opposes the funding mechanism and giving the trust bonding authority.

“I’m very supportive and sympathetic to the goals and objectives of the legislation, but as a former secretary of Finance and somebody who’s worked on these issues for years, the funding mechanism just isn’t appropriate,” he said.

House Speaker Pete Schwartkopf (D-Rehoboth)  also said he doesn’t support the funding mechanism.

Carney earmarked $20 million this year to water and wastewater projects. But a clean water task force found the state needed to spend $100 million annually on water quality issues.

Previous versions of the bill stalled because of concerns about adding a new tax.

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