Representative Mike Mulrooney and Senator Bryan Townsend are sponsoring a bill that would establish a Delaware Clean Water Trust that would assess the needs of our municipalities and neighborhoods when it comes to not only cleaning up but improving our water resources and water delivery systems. Over the next 5 years, more than $500 million in water and wastewater system upgrades are needed statewide, including systems for underserved communities and numerous at-risk systems currently operated by homeowner’s associations in Sussex County. More than $150 million in stormwater upgrades are needed throughout the State along with more than $75 million for removing toxic pollutants from various waterways. In addition, demand for agriculture cost-share funds used to reduce pollution from nutrients far surpasses available resources.
So that’s a lot of money in a state that loves to cut social services just so we don’t bother the wealthy with a higher tax rate. It seems unlikely that we are going to allocate over $750 million for water resources.
So HB270, in creating a Clean Water Trust, while it would be supported by several existing revenue sources, there will also be a new Clean Water Surcharge that will be levied on personal income tax payments and business license fees that would solely be dedicated to the trust.
The surcharge will be capped at $40 for individual tax filers, $80 for individuals filing a joint return, and $45 for business licenses. The Clean Water Surcharge will be used for capital projects and will not be directed anywhere else. Indeed, remember the Constitutional Lockbox bill, SB140, also sponsored by Mulrooney and Townsend? Well, that bill would give the Clean Water Trust created by HB270 constitutional protection, so that it will the monies deposited into the trust for clean water capital improvement projects are not directed elsewhere, like a tax cut for the rich or operating expenses in the general budget.
The dedicated Clean Water Surcharge could leverage as much as $50 million in total financing annually for clean water investments and support more than 800 direct and indirect jobs per year. The Trust will also be authorized to issue Clean Water Revenue Bonds for projects approved by the General Assembly and will administer the funds through the already existing Water Infrastructure Advisory Council with the goal of assisting municipal and county governments and others in implementing more affordable water quality projects through low-interest loans, grants, and public-private partnerships. The Trust and the Council are required to develop a Clean Water Plan with an annually updated 5-year Strategic Plan. The Trust is required to undergo an audit each year and to report annually to the General Assembly on its activities and its progress toward meeting the goals of the Clean Water Plan.
HB270 – Clean Water Trust.
YES VOTES: Mulrooney, Townsend, Hansen, Sokola, Baumbach, Brady, Hudson, Longhurst, Lynn, Osienski, Schwartzkopf
HISTORY: House Natural Resources 12/14/17
STATUS: Waiting on consideration in committee