Bunting and Mitchell vie for Democrat slot


The Democratic primary for the 20th Senate District will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 14. Incumbent Sen. George H. Bunting will try to stave off a challenge from Ocean View Councilman Perry Mitchell.

The Coastal Point does not endorse political candidates, but instead offers each candidate the opportunity to answer questions we have prepared in hopes of providing voters the information they need to make informed decisions at the polls.

The candidates are listed in alphabetical order.

George H. Bunting

Q. What are your thoughts on the four proposed casinos in Sussex County – Millsboro, Georgetown, Delmar and the Indian River Inlet?

A. First, I have voted no on casinos in the past and will do so again. Harrington is the only location of the three that the profits remain in Delaware, and our State Fair. I love my son, and even though he has withdrawn – he and his partner – for a location at the Inlet, my vote is no, for the reasons stated.

Q. What role do you believe the state should take in regard to beach protection and replenishment?

A. Rep. Carey and I did the first beach replenishment legislation in the 1980s, and since then I have worked with local governments and the congressional delegation for funding. The state needs to be talking with the county, as, in neighboring Maryland, Worcester County shares in beach replenishment, along with Ocean City. Much of Sussex County’s property taxes come from the coast and tourism, and they have an economic responsibility.

Q. How involved do you believe the state should be in terms of stimulating the local economy?

A. I believe the state has a large role in stimulating employment, by streamlining regulations with DelDOT, DNREC and other agencies. Small businesses like mine employ 90 percent of first-time workers. We must continue tweaking the blue-collar tax investment credit, of which I was co-sponsor in 1984, which has been responsible for thousands of jobs; and continue to provide free tuition for high-school graduates for the opportunity to get better jobs and improve overall quality of life, and state grants for research companies that provide well-paying jobs – including our offshore wind energy initiative.

Q. What are your thoughts on immigration laws? Should immigration be controlled by the state (i.e. Arizona), and how would you go about regulating our large immigrant population?

A. Immigration laws must be uniform, and employers must be able to easily verify if their workers are legal.

Q. What is your opinion on the Inlet Bridge progression?

A. Having spent over 10 years of my life seeking replacement of the bridge for emergency service and a vital link for our economy, I am glad to see the positive progress and the construction of a much-needed bridge, first for emergency ambulance trips to Beebe hospital, and our economy, to keep our economy strong. There is plenty of time to dwell on the negative after the bridge is completed, and who to be held accountable for mistakes. I drive over that bridge six days week and keep a close watch on it.

Q. What is your plan for teacher accountability in local schools?

A. The Indian River school system is the pride of our state system and, meeting with the Delaware Secretary of Education, she always puts up IR as a model. First, Delaware has won the national Race to the Top, and Indian river will be a benefactor. The whole system will be challenged in a positive way.

I have confidence in our parents, who will demand accountability and channel that concern through our local school boards. It all starts with guardians and parents who truly care. As a member of the Delaware Education Committee, I’m in constant contact with the heartbeat of what is happening in our schools and take calls daily.

Q. What’s your position on phasing out the Gross Receipts Tax?

A. The gross receipts tax should be phased out, with an understanding of moving job creation. In general, businesses must know clearly what to expect in healthcare cost, taxes and regulations, to plan. Delaware and the nation are lacking in small-business legislators.

Perry Mitchell

Q. What are your thoughts on the four proposed casinos in Sussex County – Millsboro, Georgetown, Delmar and the Indian River Inlet?

A. I favor HB 194, the casino bill, but I do not favor a casino for the Indian River Inlet because the inlet casino proposed on state park land would be a detriment to the pristine environment at that location and create unreasonable traffic conditions. The number of casinos in Sussex County has to be balanced against the competition with other casinos in the state.

At this point, the Del Pointe Resort and Racino will provide many new jobs and tens of thousands in revenue to the state, county and school districts and will be a win-win situation for the State.

Q. What role do you believe the state should take in regard to beach protection and replenishment?

A. The rise in water levels is a constant threat to our beaches, and this threat will increase in future years. Our beaches are a non-renewable resource that reflect a tendency to decay over time, but, at the same time, are very important to our tourism industry and leisure-time activities. The beauty of our beaches gives Delaware its legacy and we must do what we can to protect that legacy. It seems most of the money comes from the federal government and the Army Corps of Engineers, and we should continue to lobby for that money.

As far as the State is concerned, DNREC has a role in the protection and conservation of sand dunes. Through grants, this protection can be expanded to local government. I would support doing all we can to conserve our beaches.

Q. How involved do you believe the state should be in terms of stimulating the local economy?

A. States cannot do what the federal government does in terms of stimulus, i.e. spending money. However, one way for the state to stimulate the local Delaware economy is to bring jobs to Delaware and, more importantly, bring jobs to Sussex County. Public and private partnerships, such as recently announced by Gov. Markell, are a good example. Microsoft, in a public-private partnership, will offer technology training to individuals in Delaware.

Moreover, NRG will create 250 new jobs in the construction of our wind park and other jobs in the O and M soon, and that will help our local economy. Also, I would support “workshare” programs where companies are encouraged to cut hours rather than jobs from the company. For example, Rhode Island saved 5,800 jobs in their effort. This benefits government, since government would pay half of the lost wages in unemployment and the company saves on rehiring costs.

I would support subsidies to community college courses in job training, rebuilding skills, retraining for new careers. For example, we can start providing the skills to our citizens for the building our wind park.

Also, I would also support tax credits to small businesses to create jobs. This would help small businesses grow jobs.

I will also try to invite the CEOs of wind turbine manufacturing companies to Delaware to see what they would need to come into the state. The manufacturing of turbines in Sussex County would certainly cut some costs for their manufacturing and might make some sense to do it right here.

Q. What are your thoughts on immigration laws? Should immigration be controlled by the state (i.e. Arizona) and how would you go about regulating our large immigrant population?

A. The regulation of immigration is in Article 1 Section 8, Power of Congress, and I would be opposed to any Arizona-type of law interfering with federal law-enforcement power and creating discord in our Hispanic community. The federal courts have ruled that the Arizona law was unconstitutional, but it is under appeal.

Now, there are some things the state can do, and that is to cooperate with the federal government. One is requesting state agencies and contractors to use a federal database to check workers’ legal status. Two is to fine Delaware employers who hire illegals, but this has some problems of enforcement. Moreover, the state legislature can pass a resolution asking the U. S. Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Comprehensive immigration reform is what we really need to secure the U. S. border and to provide a path for legal workers and citizenship.

Q. What is your opinion on the Inlet Bridge progression?

A. Given the trials and tribulations of the Inlet Bridge construction, I can sympathize with the public, who has lost faith in this project. I want to know if the State is going to recover the $20 million loss over the initial grounding of the bridge. I am not too concerned over the cracks which have been discovered, because they do not involve the structural integrity of the bridge. I am not sure that the bridge will be done in spring of 2011, but I think that it is more likely that the bridge will be completed by fall 2011.

I am also concerned about the hazardous driving conditions on the bridge during times of increased rainfall and flooding. I wrote a letter to [DelDOT] Secretary Wicks calling attention to these conditions. She has informed me that DelDOT will work to alleviate these flooding conditions by posting signs and closing down the right hand lane when necessary. I hope that these proactive steps will help.

I would like to add that the legislature needs to take a look at the budgetary constraints for funding improvements in roads and bridges. It is unreasonable for a department as important as DelDOT is to its citizens to subsist on user fees alone. I will work to get more funding allocated to improve our highways, and especially our east/west roads, which are in need of repair and widening.

Q. What is your plan for teacher accountability in local schools?

A. I don’t believe the legislature should be involved in this policy thicket at this time. The proper place for this discussion is at the Delaware State Board of Education and local school boards, with parents. The State Board recently determined that “student growth is a required element for a teacher to be rated as effective, and more than a year of growth is required to earn the highly effective rating. A definition for student growth will be developed in collaboration with stakeholders and will include multiple indicators.”

Teacher accountability is only one important part of educational policy. I recognize that teachers often get blamed for things not under their control, such as poor student attendance or student behavioral problems originating in the home, and accountability plans need to take those things into consideration. I would like to hear from teachers and school boards before making decisions in this area.

Q. What’s your position on phasing out the Gross Receipts Tax?

A. Delaware does not impose a state or local sales tax but does impose a gross receipts tax on the seller of goods or provider of services in the state. “Business and occupational gross receipts tax rates range from 0.1037 percent to 2.0736 percent, depending on the business activity.” That should be contrasted with New Mexico, wherein the gross receipts tax rate varies throughout the state from 5.125 percent to 7.875 percent. Few states have the gross receipts tax or a similar version.

In Delaware, I believe that any reduction in tax revenue should be linked with another source of revenue or a corresponding cut in spending. The gross receipts tax was reduced about four years ago. It was increased last year because of budgetary need, but it was still lower than four years ago. This tax increase was designated to sunset in 2012 or 2013. It is my understanding that about 80 percent of businesses are not affected because they do not earn more than the monthly exemption.

I believe that, as our economy improves, Delaware should look toward ultimately phasing out this tax, if budgetary constraints permit. I hasten to add that Sussex County is not represented on the Joint Finance Committee where these decisions are made, and we need to get that representation first.