One of two political newcomers will represent the resident of the 34th state House of Representatives District next year.
Two-term incumbent state Rep. Don Blakey was ousted in the Sept. 9 Republican primary by Lyndon Yearick, a 49-year-old market manager for Kaplan Test Prep, who will now face Democrat Ted Yacucci, a 58 year-old teacher and small business owner, in the Nov. 4 general election.
In vying for votes, Yearick has stressed financial responsibility on the part of Delaware lawmakers, while Yacucci has said the state must provide incentives for companies to move to the First State.
“We cannot continue the pace of how we spend money and the results the spending produces,” Yearick said. “We cannot continue the spending levels with our Medicaid system … People want to provide a safety net for the most deserving, however, at three-quarters of a billion dollars in state spending, we need to reform the programs [and] objectively evaluate the recipients and results.”
One idea, he said, is to reform the Earned Income Tax redit program and allow individuals to utilize and benefit from private insurance plans, he said.
“We can offer incentives to current Medicaid recipients where they complete an annual health screening and blood work to identify potential health risks, tobacco use, etc,” he said. “From the screenings, we can help them on the way to enhanced preventive health behavior.”
Regarding the state’s aging Medicaid population, lawmakers need to encourage aging-in-place programs and potential tax credits for individuals that purchase long-term care insurance for assisted living, he said.
Yacucci, meanwhile, said Kent County must attract good paying jobs to help ensure the success of central Delaware, including the 34th District.
“We need both manufacturing and research opportunities,” he said. “I believe we should focus on several specific industries, especially early-stage life science and pharmaceuticals companies. Literally hundreds of these firms headquarter in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We should create a package of tax incentives and Delaware Economic Development funding that makes us a prime candidate for initial start-up, or expansion by these companies,” he said.
Such a program should include marketing the county and its workforce, as well as identifying and scheduling aggressive, pro-active visits with potential companies, he said.
“Let’s beat the competition to their door,” Yacucci said. “Legislation and money is not needed for this effort − creative thinking and actions are.”
The back and forth
Despite a fractured electorate and deep political divisions among elected officials, Yacucci said he believes he can work with people of all political persuasions.
“As a moderate Democrat, Delaware State University instructor and small-business owner for over 25 years, I think I possess the experience and insight necessary to work and reach consensus with any member of the Delaware House,” he said. “I believe in trying hard to reach consensus, and respecting all opinions.”
But, Yacucci said, his opponent does not feel the same way.
“Working with other representatives was an issue I hoped to raise in the only debate scheduled between my opponent and me on Oct. 16 at the Modern Maturity Center through the League of Women Voters,” he said, adding that Yearick dropped out two days before the event, “… even though all parties had the date saved for months.”
Yearick disputed that claim, saying he had never committed to the debate, and instead told organizers he had plans for a presentation to students at the University of Delaware.
Yacucci also pointed to Yearick’s stated desire to ‘totally change the way education is funded in Delaware.”
“I’m sure he means privatization, similar to the terribly failed policies in Pennsylvania,” the Democrat said of his oppontent. “He also believes teachers should not get yearly raises … with policies like his views on education that are so out there, I fail to see how House members on either side can take him seriously.”
Yearick said he was referring to reforming reform the unit count system currently used to determine state funding to individual school districts, not privatization. Yearick also said he favors a merit-based pay increase system for all state employees, including teachers.
And he said there will be opportunities for all state legislators to work together for the common good, such as promoting the Kent County Regional Sports Complex, tax reductions for casinos or initiatives to expand agriculture in Delaware.
“Ideally, representatives from throughout the state can come together as adults to address the long-term financial challenges to our state employees’ pensions and long-term health care,” he said. “We are operating at deep deficits with these programs and they require attention. These are examples where we can work together, however, we will agree to disagree on other issues. For example, I’m against what mostly likely will be the governor’s desire to re-propose an increase to the gas tax and an introduction of a new water tax.”
Both Yearick and Yacucci say lawmakers need to address, once and for all, the issue of how the state deals with tax revenue from casinos.
Yearick recommends the state reduce the tax rate Delaware’s three casinos pay on slot revenues from the current 43.5-percent rate to 37 and 39 percent for a three- to five-year period.
“I’d advocate a solution that provides clarity and consistency, versus the one year Band-Aid, piecemeal approach the state has provided in the last two years,” he said. “The casinos are asking for the opportunity to fairly compete against all of their new competitors in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The state needs to realize the casinos will not generate the tax revenue for the general fund they produced before the new competition.”
Yearick, however, said he would be opposed to adding any new casinos in Delaware.
“Let’s provide a fair and reasonable opportunity for the three casinos to compete against Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, not additional Delaware casinos,” he said.
Yacucci, meanwhile, said he feels the current course of action is the way to go.
“I believe the legislation that evolved through the hard and diligent work of [state] Sen. [Brian] Bushweller was the correct course of action” he said. “Our casinos support over 1,500 jobs, and it is tough to argue that casino facilities have not paid their fair share of taxes. The casino industry also provides the backbone for the harness industry in Delaware, providing significantly more jobs.”
However, he said the state places too much emphasis on jobs that are subject to increased competition from other states.
“We need to attract a wide range of manufacturing and research jobs, starting with an emphasis on life science and pharmaceutical companies,” he said.