Clean Water Surcharge Proposed in Delaware - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Clean Water Surcharge Proposed in Delaware

Posted: Jan 15, 2018 7:20 PM Updated:
Gun sales, minimum wage hike and death penalty. Three issues on legislators' minds as they gavel back into session Tuesday. (Photo: WBOC) Gun sales, minimum wage hike and death penalty. Three issues on legislators' minds as they gavel back into session Tuesday. (Photo: WBOC)

DOVER, Del.- State lawmakers this year are expected to consider legislation to add a surcharge of up to $40 or $80 to Delawareans' personal income taxes to fund a trust for projects to improve water quality around the state.

House Bill 270 would fund the clean water trust by enacting a surcharge equal to 10 percent of someone's personal income tax liabilities, though it would be capped at $40 for individual filers and $80 for joint filings. Business licenses would also be subjected to a $45 surcharge for the trust.

If passed, supporters say the legislation would help pay for more than hundreds of millions of dollars in water and waste water system upgrades needed over the next five years throughout the state. The legislation estimates the surcharge will bring in $20 million each year.

"I would definitely pay a little more to keep these waters clean and keep the diseases and everything out of the fish," said Stephen Clark of Dover.

Gerald Street with the Kent County Conservancy said he thought the surcharge itself was a good idea because many homeowners contribute to pollution of Delaware waterways and believes it would give people a reason to keep an eye on how the trust allocates money.

"Some individuals unfortunately...either don't care about run off from the fertilizers in their yards, which is one of the biggest pollutants in Silver Lake comes from yard waste."

A 2015 task force said 90 percent of Delaware waterways deal with some sort of pollution issues.

Lawmakers supporting the bill also intend to propose legislation creating a "lock box" for the funds in the trust, so they are used solely on water quality projects. HB 270 also states the administrative costs for the trust would be capped at 10 percent after the first two years of existence. 

But some lawmakers have said they don't support the legislation because they think water quality products should be part of the operating budget requested by the state's environmental department. Rep. Charles "Trey" Paradee (D-Dover West) said he worries about committing more taxpayer money to another particular set of projects.

"We don't want to be in a situation 10, 20 years from now where we have a pot of money that's in search of projects," he said.

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