Q & A: Rep. S. Quinton JohnsonMar 27, 2018 05:37PM ● By Steven Hoffman
Rep. S. Quinton “Quinn” Johnson serves as a member of the Delaware House of Representatives for the 8th District, which includes the greater Middletown area. He was first elected to the Delaware House of Representatives in November 2008, starting his first term in January of 2009. Middletown Life caught up with Johnson recently to talk about about a variety of issues impacting Delaware residents, including the state's ongoing efforts to boost revenues without raising taxes, and the importance of providing quality education to all students, including those with special needs.
Q: State Rep. Johnson, you're in your tenth year as a state lawmaker. Can you talk about what led you to enter politics in the first place?
A: I got into politics because I wanted to make a difference for my child, and wanted to do something about the issues that I had encountered. My youngest child was born deaf, and as we worked through his education in the public school system, we were not satisfied at all with the services he and other deaf and hard of hearing children were receiving in the state. Delaware, to begin with, is a small state and deafness/hard of hearing is a low-incident disability.
However, regardless of what disability a child may have, the stories we heard from other families were all too similar. ALL children are entitled to an education and if given the right tools, ALL children can be successful! I did not want what happened to us to happen to any other parent and I wanted to make the educational experiences of children with a disability easier and more successful in meeting their needs.
Q: What is the best part of your job?
A: The best part of my job is to serve the residents of the 8th District. I have been humbled by the fact that they have put their faith in me to serve them these last 10 years. While there is still work to do to improve our education system, it was satisfying to be able to address the issues that got me passionate about pursuing public service and to see new laws passed that will help ALL children!
Q: How about the most challenging part of the job?
A: The most challenging part of the job has been dealing with our budget issues. Due to my business background, I have had the opportunity to serve on a committee that analyzes our state budget and our revenues. For the majority of the years I have served, we have had to deal with deficits in our budget. That means tough decisions to either cut programs, or raise taxes to add more revenue to keep programs alive – programs that our citizens of Delaware depend on. It is an extremely difficult position to be in when you know that there is someone out there that could use your help and you do not have the resources to help them.
Q: What are a few of the statewide issues or initiatives that you would like to see the General Assembly address this year?
A: The problem with our budget, and the ongoing deficits, is that a large portion of our revenue does not grow when the economy grows. Prior to my election, the state depended heavily on revenue that came from the casinos and from unclaimed property. Now that other states have added gambling to help solve their budget issues, we are no longer the only game in town and have felt the impact significantly. Unclaimed property is when someone does not cash a dividend check from a corporation and that check sits for years unclaimed. Since Delaware has so many corporations registered in the state, those funds then come back to us. An individual always has the right to claim those funds, but the corporation does not get to keep those funds. Due to audits of corporations this revenue grew to over $500 million. However, it is now projected to possibly slide backwards to $300 million.
All of these examples touch on this fact – we have very unpredictable sources of revenue. I have served on committees that have reviewed the volatility of our revenue sources and have made recommendations on what needs to be done to address this issue and to get us out of the cycle of deficits. It is not an issue of too much spending; it is that the sources of revenue are no longer keeping up with the growth of our state. Increasing alcohol and cigarette taxes will not help get us a truly sustainable budget. We need to address this issue once and for all and get the state’s budget process on solid ground.
Q: Is there any legislation currently under consideration that you want your constituents in the Middletown area to be aware of?
A: We just kicked off the second half of the 149th legislative session and will be getting into the legislative grind in March. However, following the legislation session is important, and I ask all of the constituents in the 8th District to please feel free to call me, email me, or stop me in the grocery store, to let me know how they feel about an issue they are concerned with. It is vital that we hear your opinion.
Q: What House committees do you serve on?
A: I serve as co-chair of the Joint Bond Bill Committee, vice-chair of the House Agriculture Committee, and a member of the House Economic Development Committee, Gaming and Parimutuels Committee, Health and Human Development Committee, Natural Resources Committee, Revenue and Finance Committee, and Veterans Affairs Committee. I am also a chair of the Special Needs Subcommittee, and a member of the Kids Caucus, the Small Business Caucus, and the Delaware Sea Level Rise, and Flood Plain and Storm Water Management committees.
Q: You are also a business owner with your wife, Julie. Tell us about the Tender Loving Kare Child Care and Learning Center.
A: This is a true mom-and-pop, build the business from the ground-up story. We started in 1992 in a garage in our first house offering childcare as an in-home provider, while I still maintained a full-time job. In 1994, back before the Internet, I saw a very small center for sale in the newspaper. Young and ambitious, we purchased that little facility and as they say, the rest is history. We now have three locations and have had the extreme privilege of caring for and educating thousands of children in our community. We have always focused on quality and are proud to say that all of our locations are STAR 5 quality rated locations and that we were the first private facility in the state to earn that recognition. We were recently recognized for being in the program since the beginning, now 10 years strong.
Q: You reside in Middletown. What are a few of your favorite spots in the Middletown area?
A: What I love most about Middletown is that it does have the amenities you need, but in a short drive you are in the country. I love the rural farmland, nature and rich history of Middletown.
Q: If you could invite any three guests, living or dead, to a dinner party, who would it be?
A: Since this is an article that is about my role as a state representative, I would invite Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Ronald Reagan. I wouldn’t invite them necessarily for their actual political views, but more for how they were able to rally their colleagues and the legislatures of their time in order to make the tough decisions during significantly different times in our nation’s history.
When you look back at each one of their terms, they had issues that were enormously significant to the history of our country and were able to get the people around them to make the difficult decisions that were necessary to address the issues they faced. The creation of our nation, slavery, and the Cold War are all significant issues. There are, of course, many other notable people that I would like to have at the table. Limiting to only three is difficult.