First State Update recently asked Delaware State Representative John Kowalko to share his vison for Delaware’s future. Here’s what he told us:
“My vision for Delaware’s future hinges on a sea change in attitude by elected officials and government agencies regarding open and transparent government. The current system, often cloaked in secrecy and diminished access, has caused a disconcerting drop in public confidence and trust in government. Transforming the realities of the status-quo, which currently
provides that those in power are allowed to dictate terms rather than engage in meaningful public dialogue on policies and issues, must occur.”
Rep. Kowalko went on to say “My vision/platforms for Delaware is dependent on the success of dislodging the current system of secretive decision making and allowing more transparency to the public. It is also important to challenge leadership that seeks to retain an almost dictatorial control over policies and issues preventing and obstructing chamber votes on important policies.”
Mr. Kowalko outlined several issues that he planned to focus on if re-elected in November.
1) Stopping the hemorrhaging of taxpayer monies gifted to the world’s wealthiest corporations, ($250 million over the last 8 years, 37% of that going to 6 of the wealthiest Fortune 500 companies). If we dedicated only a small percentage of that money to encouraging and assisting growth in smaller Delaware based companies, (that are not fleeing offshore), we would allow those business to prosper, expand and provide thousands of new jobs.
2) Expanding the “Minimum Corporate Franchise Tax Cap” to recover part of the $60 million in lost revenue that resulted from the ill-considered “Delaware Competes Act” passed in the 148th GA. I will reintroduce last session HB 216 to replenish our lost revenues.
3) I plan to reintroduce an “Opt-Out” measure similar to HB 50 (passed by nearly 70% in both chambers yet vetoed by the Governor) to reinvigorate parental rights regarding their children’s educational experience.
4) I plan to address the failures to adequately fund public education, teachers’ salaries, infrastructural stability and needs of the impoverished and struggling families to have equal access to education opportunities.
5) I will work on legislation to reform the “Epilogue” language process that inserts certain language into the budgetary bills, in the last days of session, which contravenes existing codes and results in no accountability and specificity of allocation of taxpayer funds.
6) I will introduce LLC licensing reform legislation in an attempt to correct the reality that Delaware has acquired a worldwide reputation as a haven for shell-companies, tax evaders, fraud enablers and money launderers.
7) I will reintroduce legislation to require the appointed “Cash Management Board’ members (who deal with over $2 Billion in Delaware investment money) to file an annual report with the Public Integrity Commission. They would have to file a personal financial disclosure report annually just as all elected officials, agency heads and cabinet members (among more than 27 different government entities) are required to do now.
8) I will reintroduce legislation to repeal the exemption granted to the University of Delaware (annual recipient of over $120 million in taxpayer money) that specifically declares them a non-public entity for purposes of FOIA thereby restoring the rights of the public and lawmakers to request information and mirror the actions of 48 others states who have such policies in code.
9) Most importantly I will strive to provide an economic stability to Delaware’s tax code that will allow our government to provide necessary and meaningful services to all.
We asked Kowalko about his views on taxes, education, charter schools, business, the economy and his plans to move Delaware forward?
“As regards my view on taxes etc. I have offered legislation to establish minimally higher tax brackets. For example my legislation released from committee in 2014 (not brought to the floor for a vote) would have created a situation that would have cost an individual earner of $250,000 in adjusted gross income only an additional $675 per year. We must move in the direction of a more progressive personal tax structure to allow for a fairer sharing of revenue needs while minimizing the economic impact on businesses and the wealthiest individuals. We must wean Delaware’s economy from its dependency on a parasitical revenue stream and create a stable and dependable system for needed revenue. Delaware can no longer afford to compete in the marketplace of corporate welfare grants and it cannot continue to sacrifice needed revenue by giving the wealthiest corporations in the world tax cuts that have no proven return on investment record. By almost all accounts Delaware’s friendly business climate and venerable Chancery Court system contribute to an atmosphere of enticement for incorporation that is unmatched in the United States and we should not try to compete in some type of corporate extortion against states that can afford much more financial resources than Delaware has.
We should immediately restore the imprudent funding cuts imposed on our public education system, revamp our education funding mechanism so that additional resources are provided to follow the needs of the individual students and ensure adequate funding from the state that does not shift the taxation burden disproportionately to the local taxpayers while pretending that we are not responsible for any tax increases necessary. We can regain some of the lost revenue needed by dramatically trimming the bloated Department of Education, cancelling state imposed consultant fees, divesting ourselves of those bureaucracies and positions created to sustain the failed Race to the Top adventure, cut out the senseless, unproven standardized test culture that supports many unproven and dictatorial federal unfunded mandates thrust upon our state and the autonomy of locally elected officials.
The ongoing proliferation of charter schools with little to no oversight or accountability should be stemmed. In many cases charter schools are approved by an out of touch and ill-informed bureaucracy of unelected state agencies and bodies such as the State Board of Education and DOE. Their necessity and purpose for being is often left unchallenged, and current law does not allow for even a cursory glance by the local districts in which they intend to locate to study impact or need. The current law also allows for an exclusionary atmosphere that has resulted in huge disparities and lack of diversity and, in some cases, fostering a resegregation of schools. These challenges can be met with improvements to the laws that would limit admissions preferences, (such as the 5 mile radius rule) and a mandated first stop for applications for new charters at the local district level. These are two items I have written bills to address in the past and intend to reintroduce next session. We also must separate our public school system, including charters, from the grasp of the corporate entrepreneurs who look to privatize for profit as opposed to provide educational opportunities for all children. Moving forward we should attend to the needs of the people and the vulnerable over the interests of the corporatist culture sweeping America.”
What are your biggest accomplishment in your 10 years as the 25th’s representative?
“My biggest accomplishment in my ten years as a representative has been my willingness to listen and study all aspects of every issue and educate myself on the nuances of those policies and laws that we craft in Dover. I’m most proud of my ability to keep my commitment to serve the working families, businesses and communities of Delaware and not succumb to special interests and I will proudly pledge that the only “special interests” I will serve are the people of Delaware.
Please refer to all of my previously stated priorities when I am re-elected. I will continue to be the most accessible legislator in Dover, welcoming individuals and interested advocates on all issues. My door remains open to anyone of any political persuasion or philosophical opinion, and I welcome them with an equally open mind when considering their viewpoint.”
What are your thought of Mr. Nagorski’s use of the nomination process to enter into the race after the filing deadline.
“It is always a healthy display of democratic representative government when sitting lawmakers are challenged. I would never question the motives of anyone who takes up a challenge of such magnitude. I would point out, however, that I filed and announced in April for my first electoral challenge and I believe that an early filing displays a commitment and dedication to such a serious venture that voters respect.”
Image Credits: First State Update, State Of Delaware, Anthony Santoro of Diamond State Photography