Clean Water Initiative Creates Debate in Sussex - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Clean Water Initiative Creates Debate in Sussex

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DOVER, Del.- Gov. Jack Markell has called for higher taxes to pay for an initiative to clean up Delaware waterways. The tax increase would average an additional $45 a year for the average home, but it could be far more for businesses, real estate owners, and those who have a lot of land. 

Businesses in particular are going to be taxed on a sliding scale, capped at $25,000 for the largest ones. This tax increase is expected to bring in a total of $30 million per year from taxpayers. Markell said that money can then be leveraged to create a total of $120 million from federal and private funding. 

Markell has argued that this action is necessary due to "embarrassing" water standards in the state. His office has released numbers that said fish in 94 percent of the waterways are unsafe to eat. They also said that 86 percent of the waterways are unsafe to swim in. 

In a video released by the governor, he made his plea for this tax increase.

"Water is the foundation of everything we do," he said. 

He said the money would be used to upgrade wastewater and drinking water plants, to improve storm water infrastructure, and to limit flooding.

"That work will revitalize communities across the state and make it a healthier and safer place to live for years to come," he said in the video.

But Mark Allen, a real estate owner in Seaford said the tax would mean big problems for people within his industry.  

"For the average person, their property tax might increase by a certain increment times one," he said. "But mine would increase by a certain increment times a dozen."

And his concern is shared by more than those in real estate. The average home-owner would pay about $45 per year, but for people with larger plots of land, that number could climb as high as $85 per year. Councilman Samuel Wilson, a Republican from the Second District, said farmers would be adversely impacted by the proposal due to their large property sizes.  

"Why do we want to put the farmer out of business..." he said. "The best economy for Sussex County is farming. Farming is the number one industry."

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