Blast of the Big-time Spenders
Even if the state weren’t facing another year of tough budget decisions, jolly giant Colin Bonini and his merry band of Young Turks would fight against big spending and big government. Can they win favor for their ideas?
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State Senator Colin Bonini is showing a visitor around Black Dog Farm, the 10-acre property in an unincorporated area of Kent County where he and his wife live in a three-story log home and stable her five horses. Even in this bucolic setting, Bonini can’t resist making a political point.
“The Magnolia post office is a stone’s throw away,” he says, “but our address is the Camden post office, which is a couple of miles in the other direction.”
He sighs. “Classic U. S. government.”
Wasteful spending, excessive taxes and other governmental deficiencies are Bonini’s mortal enemies, and he opposes them with the glee of a happy warrior waging the good, ultra-conservative fight. His vocal and detailed criticism of the state’s $3.091 billion budget for 2009, combined with an ebullient personality, have made him perhaps the most prominent among the state legislature’s Young Turks, a loosely defined group that urges budget cuts, reduced taxes and smaller government. All Republicans, they include representatives Greg Lavelle, Deborah Hudson and Gerald Hocker, Senator Joe Booth, and former senator Charlie Copeland, who has stayed active in state politics since losing the race for lieutenant governor in 2008.
Bonini is hands-down the most conservative of the group, often casting the only “no” vote on measures before the Senate, thus his nickname: No-nini.
“I believe in very limited government,” he says, “and my basic philosophy is that people will spend their money better than I ever will, no matter how well intentioned I am, and I and all my colleagues are well intentioned.
“But I am not one of these get-rid-of-government guys. From the human services perspective, the government clearly has a role. But I think, especially in Delaware, government has just grown way too large and way too expensive.”
The transplanted Californian was called “the longest shot in the state of Delaware” when he became the Senate’s youngest member in 1994 at the age of 29. He represents the 16th District, which encompasses southern Kent County and a small section of northern Sussex County.
From the start, he espoused his conservative credo, cautioning colleagues against runaway spending and a growing state bureaucracy. In June 2000 he predicted that “Delaware’s spending habits are a train wreck waiting to happen.” Sure enough, Governor Jack Markell faced a projected $800 million shortfall when he prepared his first budget last year.
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