Jobs and the economy will be at the forefront of the agenda for state Sen. Gerald Hocker (R-20th) this coming year. Additionally, Hocker said he would like to focus on finding a compromise on aquaculture and getting additional police protection downstate.
“It’s something I get a lot of calls on. It’s going to be a priority in how we deal with it,” he explained. Hocker said he would like to see a larger state police presence, especially in Sussex County.
As regards job creation and boosting the economy, Hocker admitted it’s not news to be emphasizing their importance, but he expressed frustration with results thus far.
“I don’t know of anybody that didn’t campaign about jobs and the economy, but then they go to Dover and do the opposite. Just look up what we have passed to create jobs in the private sector.”
“I’d like to see a jobs bill created through the private sector and not on the backs of taxpayers,” he continued. “The State is trying to buy manufacturing jobs, and they need to create incentive through the private sector and not with taxpayer dollars.”
He related that his own story as a businessman — of starting out with five employees in 1971 and growing to where he is today, owning multiple grocery stores, a hardware store and more — as being nearly impossible now.
“My wife and I started in 1971. If it was 2014, we’d be in trouble. We just couldn’t make it happen today,” he said, adding that he believes there are just too many regulations, which he said costs job growth in Delaware. He added that he didn’t have a lot of confidence that that was going to change going in to the new year.
“With our president and General Assembly — no, I’m not confident. I always say I would love to see more businesspeople in the General Assembly — people from both parties, so we can work together to change it.
“Years ago, you had manufacturing representatives, and now you have very few. I’d much rather have somebody in there that has had to make payroll and pay bills than somebody that has lived off the backs of the taxpayers. The two think completely different.”
He added that he hopes someone who has owned a business and has made those types of decisions will step up as the next governor. Asked if that person might be him, Hocker didn’t discount the notion, saying, “I think I have proven myself. I don’t think anybody can take that away from me.”
He added that his success is because of the types of people that he has around him. “I have good employees that have helped me grow my business. I just don’t see that kind of cooperation in our current administration.”
Specifically, for this coming legislative year, he said he hopes to be able to take a look at the prevailing wage, noting he wasn’t against it — he just thought it should be “recalculated so it’s a fair prevailing wage.”
According to the State of Delaware, prevailing rates have to be paid on new construction projects with a price tag of more than $100,000 and on “alteration, repair, renovation, rehabilitation, demolition or reconstruction projects” greater than $15,000. That affects projects where “the State or any subdivision thereof must be a party to the public works contract; and, the State must have appropriated any part of the funds.”
Hocker said the law needs to be completely “revamped,” so the limits can be raised and so small contractors can bid on the smaller jobs. “It would save the taxpayers millions and put people to work,” he said.
“There are ways to create jobs in this state without being on the backs of taxpayers. The working man just can’t afford much anymore. Just look at the additional people that are on welfare and food stamps in the last six years. We have to get those people working. There are ways to turn it around. We need to get people back to work.”
Regarding aquaculture, Hocker said he would like to see the industry get “started on the right foot in the right area.”
He said the places the State has proposed — the Little Assawoman Bay, the Indian River Bay and the Rehoboth Bay — are recreational areas and, while he agrees aquaculture should come to fruition and would “be a great thing for Delaware,” he thinks corrections need to be made in where it would occur.
“It’s good for Delaware, he said. “I think we need to concentrate on fulfilling an industry to create jobs in Delaware.”
Hocker and state Rep. Ron Gray hosted a full house for a public meeting on the subject of aquaculture at the Millville Volunteer Fire Company’s fire hall this past October and invited representatives of DNREC, the Center for Inland Bays and University of Delaware to speak to the many local residents about their concerns about how aquaculture might affect recreation and homeowners in the designated aquaculture areas.