Del. Senate Republicans unveil poverty-reduction agenda (WMDT 47 ABC)

By Greg Guidone, Reporter/Producer, greg_guidone@wmdt.com

DELAWARE -

"A Brighter Future", it's an agenda filled with eleven ideas Delaware Senate Republicans feel can reduce a problem that exists up and down the state. Poverty

Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson tells 47 ABC that through reducing government regulations, providing tax credits and investing in non-college education programs, Delaware would aim to become the number one lowest poverty state in the U.S. by 2024. Currently, it has the 17th lowest poverty rate.

"We know that there's a greater percentage probably, of poverty in the Wilmington area but it effects also Seaford, Laurel, Delmar, a lot of areas in southern Delaware." Said Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson.

Of the 11 ideas, five deal with tax credits, two of which are bipartisan. We're told all of them would be capped. The 'Earned Income Tax Credit" is aimed at creating tax cuts for poor, working Delawareans. Based on the state's apparent need for lower-income housing, a proposed "Poverty Housing Tax Credit" would provide assistance for organizations who work with the poor to provide temporary or permanent housing. Increasing education options, scholarship tax credits that aims encourage groups or individuals to donate to help low-income students attend private school. Two others are being proposed, the "External Training" and "Apprenticeship Tax Credits". They would give tax breaks to companies that help get unemployed, poverty-level or previously jailed residents into the workforce.

"certainly these programs are going to cost us some money but in the longrun, they're going to save us money," Said Simpson. "These are measurable programs and I think that's what will separate this agenda from the other things government is doing,"

Also on the workforce front, an idea proposing the state's SEED (student Excellence Equals Degree) funding be used for similar job certification programs outside of university walls.

The fourth idea in the agenda has to do with a "Pay For Success" financing program. It would create a task force to review which poverty-fighting programs currently in place are working and which ones aren't working. Republicans say by weeding out what works and what doesn't, the state could cut some of those programs.

Two other ideas address entreprenurial and working license reform. Republicans call for a change in occupational license requirements to ease the burden on low-income earners. Meaning that those who specialize as a barber and cosmetologist could cut costs in license and renewal fees. This reform is something Governor Markell stated he wanted to look into during his 2016 State of the State address. The other would look to create a "cottage food industry". We're told this idea look to spur home-based business growth, allowing non-hazardous food producers, such as bakers, to use their own kitchens for production.

In terms of federal funds being used in this fight, republicans say they will be proposing that the state asks Delaware's federal delegation for anti-poverty funding in the form of block grants with rails. This means that any federal funds allocated to the state for anti-poverty measures could be used, only for "strictly defined anti-poverty programs."

Delaware Democratic Party Chairman John Daniello released a statement Wednesday in response to the agenda. In it, he says in part: "If they are serious about fighting poverty, they can join us in supporting other proactive, outcome-driven efforts like sentencing reform, providing family leave, increasing the minimum wage and expanding early childhood education -- things they've routinely opposed in the General Assembly and beyond"

Democratic Senate Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins also weighed in on the agenda. In a statement to 47 ABC, she said: "While I don't agree with some aspects of their plan and am concerned that on balance it would divert resources away from proven programs, I do see it as a good faith effort from our friends across the aisle to embrace a fight that we have led for decades."

This agenda is only a first step. We're told that most of the proposed legislation based on these ideas should be filed by the end of the current legislative session.