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Let us gaze into Sam Waltz’s crystal ball for a 2016 forecast

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Sam Waltz

Sam Waltz
Founding Publisher

Given the seeming prescience of last January’s prediction, calling the prospect of some kind of merger or acquisition of the DuPont Co. that will strike DuPont from the Delaware scene by 2020, editor Mike Mika of this illustrious publication has asked me to press my luck, and take another shot at it.

“Fools rush in,” so here are some thoughts on random, albeit important, topics for 2016.

In City of Wilmington politics, a good chance exists that much-criticized Mayor Dennis Williams will be re-elected in 2016, despite widespread scorn not only over the city’s murder rate, but his governance style.

The city’s vote splits in two in Wilmington. No, not the conventional Republican and Democrat. Not even the obvious black vote and white vote.

Rather, in 2016 it will be the pro-Dennis vote and the anti-Dennis vote. The anti-Dennis vote seems to widely eclipse the pro-Dennis vote. But the number of Democrats – now about five – committing to a September primary increases the likelihood of his re-nomination, simply because, while the pro-Dennis vote does not increase, the competition further divides the anti-Dennis vote.

In State of Delaware governance, expect the Delaware General Assembly to go past the end of fiscal 2016 on June 30 before it passes a fiscal 2017 budget. It won’t be as bad as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s six-month lag, but it will take a few hours, if not days.

Expect a new tax or fee or two, despite the fact that 2016 is an election year, simply given the reality, despite the rosy forecasts for state revenues at year-end. More user fees likely will be loaded in, although the state remains unlikely to convert its gross receipts tax – a tax on sales and revenues – to a full-fledged sales tax.

But don’t hold your breath for any major expense cuts. By and large, it will be more of the same, as Delaware tries to skate past the elections on the aging thin ice of Delaware’s budgetary framework. Unions – which have a small membership base now, but are reliably active with the Democrats – will stall the kind of privatization as well as right-to-work legislation that could make a real difference in Delaware.

The business community and government will agree on a major new Delaware economic development tool, but it’s too early to say just what that will be, although it likely will try to leverage Delaware’s primacy in courts, governance, incorporations, and as corporate domicile of choice, finding “the big idea” that I’ve written about here.

Some mini-boomlets have arisen in recent years, ranging from the State’s ascendancy in captive insurance to the interesting year-end 2015 start-stop progress on a mini-Stock Exchange.

The University of Delaware has made great progress with its OEIP, its Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships, in terms of incenting and commercializing economic development, and that has the greatest potential of something already out there as a catalyst to accelerate new business growth.

But the next FCDA (Financial Center Development Act, pioneered in 1981 by Gov. Pete du Pont to lure credit card banking to Delaware) will be created with a lot of hope and bated breath. It’s way too early to even have a clue about what that might be.

On the downside, though, expect a mini-corruption scandal in Delaware government somewhere. Misdeeds in Delaware pale by comparison to the chicanery and buffoonery in states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and even my home state of Illinois.

In Pennsylvania, a sitting congressman is under indictment, his son already has been convicted, and a Supreme Court justice has resigned, plus a miscellany of other such issues. In New Jersey, a sitting U.S. senator is under indictment. And, in New York, two powerful state legislators have been convicted. All that in just the last few months.

Corruption in Delaware pales by comparison, and it ordinarily is more modest political favoritism. But 2016 may be the year that someone rolls a grenade into the tent.

Wilmington’s murder rate will continue to increase. Already, one of the city’s and state’s best known and most influential business leaders is taking out his own concealed-carry permit for his own protection, and the public disclosure of that in 2016 likely will raise a few eyebrows.

Joe Biden, well, I’m like a thousand other Delawareans who know Joe really well, but are uncertain what will happen when he gets back to his lakefront estate in the 19807 ZIP code. I’d guess he will go on some corporate boards, give $250,000 speeches, and decompress for a while before writing an insightful look at Capitol Hill and/or foreign policy over the last half century.

All of that assumes that Hillary doesn’t implode, or fall on a grenade in 2016, requiring the party to draft Joe as its “nominee for all seasons.”

If a Democrat is elected to the White House in 2016, expect Gov. Jack Markell to start work in Washington, D.C., perhaps as Secretary of the Department of Education, relying on his accomplishments in Delaware as a track record.

OK, that’s it, and I’ll volunteer to be held accountable to a scorecard. Happy New Year!

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