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Del. Roundtable, State Chamber propose recovery plan

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The Delaware Business Roundtable and Delaware State Chamber of Commerce recently sent a list of recommendations to state leaders about strategies, policies and spending priorities that could help jumpstart the local post-COVID economy. | DBT FILE PHOTO

WILMINGTON – Two of the most-important voices for Delaware’s business community, the Delaware Business Roundtable and Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, sent an economic plan to state leaders Monday, emphasizing the need for bipartisan work toward recovery efforts this year.

The organizations’ four-part plan, titled “The Road to Recovery: Putting Delawareans Back to Work,” was released the day before Gov. John Carney was to present his priorities during the annual State of the State address Tuesday afternoon. The state chamber represents hundreds of state businesses small and large, while the Roundtable is a non-partisan, volunteer consortium of CEOs whose companies collectively employ over 75,000 people in Delaware.

Aside from their policy and spending recommendations, the duo pledged their support to the state’s effort to vaccinate as many residents as possible as quickly as possible.

“The business community offers its assistance to the Division of Public Health and the entire Carney administration as we embark on this critical effort,” they wrote in their letter to leaders.

Among their proposed priorities, the organizations recommend supporting the state’s Forward Delaware workforce training program, proactively supporting childcare centers that many working families depend upon and assisting workers by waiving state income taxes on unemployment benefits obtained in 2020 – a measure that is already sailing through the General Assembly with Carney’s support.

The groups specifically propose the General Assembly create a refundable tax credit to employers who hire Forward Delaware graduates and certify that the new hires have been signed up for additional, approved training.

“Putting Delawareans back to work through participation in meaningful training programs that prepare them for a career not only benefits individuals and their families but all Delawareans,” they wrote.

In terms of attracting new employers, the groups cite the anticipated Fiscal Year 2022 budget surplus as a reason why legislators should not increase taxes, as at least one bill is proposing this year.

“Delaware must strengthen its ability to compete for jobs with other states, and increasing taxes at this time would hamper our competitiveness and negatively impact the very businesses and individuals the state is trying to help,” they wrote.

They also argue that the state should invest in ready-to-use laboratory space that many biotech companies are currently looking for.

Many of their recommendations center around the “Ready in Six” initiative that they have backed for the past few years, including hiring an economic development “project concierge” responsible directly to the governor to drive progress on it. They recommend establishing a specific response timeframe by which state agencies, especially the Departments of Transportation and Natural Resources and Environmental Control, must respond to applicants’ requests for permits.

“Projects that create jobs for Delawareans should not languish within state agencies for an undetermined length of time,” they wrote.

The organizations also supported lawmakers’ efforts to create a Clean Water Trust Fund to back water-quality projects and a Site Readiness Fund to jumpstart economic development. Greater equity in public education funding, continued support for the vocationally focused Delaware Pathways program, and progress toward universal pre-K programs were other priorities voiced by the groups.

“Most importantly, the DBRT and DSCC believe the hallmark of Delaware’s journey on the Road to Recovery must be collaboration and cooperation – between Democrats and Republicans, between upstate and downstate, between the public and private sectors. There’s never been another time in Delaware’s history where such a heightened level of collaboration and cooperation were required to meet a challenge. Just as this crisis isn’t ‘business as usual’ for Delawareans, it can’t be ‘politics as usual’ for our elected leaders,” the groups wrote to state leaders.

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