State Rep. Don Blakey, (R-Camden), held his first public forum of the year Wednesday night, but the event was sparsely attended, primarily due to the imminent start of the winter storm then bearing down on the area.
Blakey, whose 34th District stretches roughly from Dover Air Force Base to Viola, planned the meeting to get public input on a number of voter concerns, however most of those who spoke up did so on the subject of Gov. Jack Markell’s planned 10-cent per gallon gasoline tax, proposed in the upcoming Fiscal Year 2014-2015 state budget.
“The gas tax was pushed to us as a way of improving infrastructure, though interestingly and much to my chagrin, one of the infrastructure programs not included in that gas tax program was the Frederica overpass, which was of some annoyance to me,” said Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, (R-Clayton).
Construction of that overpass is considered vital to a planned sports complex near Frederica; work on the roadway recently was pushed back two years in favor of other transportation programs.
Spiegelman also criticized the state legislature for failing to find ways to avoid raising taxes.
“Instead of cutting spending and the state tightening our belt, instead we’re asking you to tighten yours when it comes to fuel costs,” he told the group. Instead the legislature should concentrate on finding ways to create more business opportunities, Spiegelman said.
Sen. Brian Bushweller, (D-Dover), later said a vote being taken by a DelDOT transportation committee that evening would not even address the Frederica sports project.
“That complex is very, very important to the future economic vitality of Kent County, and we need to keep trying to find a way to do it, but right now it’s a little doubtful,” he said.
Bushweller also said he had not made up his mind on the gas tax, noting that since it applies to everyone, it has a greater potential of harming lower income Delawareans and small businesses. In addition, rising Medicare costs and Markell’s call to add more than 200 teaching positions will “cost a ton of money,” Bushweller said.
Kay Bothell of Wyoming said Markell needs to show why the tax increase is needed.
“I think he needs to prove to the people who provide the money what he had done to cut first,” she said.
“I haven’t seen that,” she added.
Noting the legislature has allocated money to build a new Troop 3 headquarters near Magnolia, town resident Dwight Meyer wondered if there also a possibility of adding more troopers to the area.
Page 2 of 2 - Levy Court Commissioner Terry Pepper, who also works for the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security, noted Troop 3’s area of responsibility has been reduced but it’s manning has remained the same. This should reduce the amount of time it takes troopers to respond to calls, he said.
In addition to Blakey, Spiegelman, Bushweller and Pepper, those in attendance also got the chance to hear from Levy Court Commissioner Jody Sweeney, Camden Vice Mayor Justin T. King, Wyoming Mayor Dale Rife and Caesar Rodney School District Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald.
Blakey ended the night with the announcement he has decided to run for re-election in November.
“This is as good a time as any to let you know,” he said. Blakey has represented the 34th District since 2006.