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Ethan A. Lang | PHOTO COURTESY OF A BETTER DELAWARE[/caption]
As tax week has passed, Delawareans might be dismayed that the General Assembly is considering a bill that would amend the state code to carve out a special tax credit for one of Dover’s favorite special interests starting next year.
Authored by State Senator Nicole Poore (D-New Castle), Senate Bill 72 would allow for a $500 nonrefundable tax credit for union dues starting in 2024.
Once again, the taxpayer will be asked to fund a subsidy for a private entity that does not benefit all Delaware residents—only the majority party and its friends.
It’s important to contextualize the bill because union membership is below the national percentage. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are roughly 424,000 workers in Delaware, of whom 41,000 — around 9.7% — are union members. (For the sake of comparison, about 10.1% of the U.S. workforce — down from 10.3% a year earlier — was unionized in 2022.
That means that over 90% of workers are not unionized. This makes the scheme even more audacious because it requires the rest of the state’s residents to make up the difference while a relative handful reaps the rewards.
Historically, local and national unions have used dues to fund political activity. Delaware is no different. Union leaders are active participants in state politics. Between 2018-2022, the bill’s senate sponsor, Sen. Poore, has accepted nearly $15,000 in union contributions, usually with them maxing out in an election cycle. House Majority Leader Representative Longhurst has done the same with almost $14,000. Is SB 72 simply a measure to favor their donors rather than one to help all Delawareans?
To varying degrees of success, federal and state laws have been implemented to safeguard against this. The U.S. Supreme Court has had to define parameters surrounding the issue of dues and their collection. Non-union members cannot be forced to pay union dues, as it violates their First Amendment.
But more than these safeguards are needed. While objectors can ensure their dues are only used to cover their share of direct representation costs, union members who do not object may still have their dues used for political causes. According to their LM-2, in 2022, the Laborers 199 alone made $40,178 in cash disbursements for political activities and lobbying without a PAC.
Essentially, this measure would allow for a tax credit for political engagement. You, the reader, would subsidize union leaders to continue lobbying for their agenda. The government should not seek to benefit political rent seekers.
Here’s a thought: Instead of bills that have no purpose but to favor special interests in Dover, why not pass something to help all working families whose dues weren’t the deciding factor in electing members of the General Assembly? The legislature should be working for all, not simply those who give them political patronage.
Instead of bills that further the political machinations of those in power, why not advocate for bills to grow Delaware’s economy by lowering the individual income tax for all families and reducing licensing fees to remove further barriers to work? These simple measures would do a lot of good for those who need them and bolster our economy when many are struggling.
I, for one, would welcome the change.
Ethan A. Lang is the executive director of A Better Delaware.