On Thursday, January 17 Governor Markell gave the first State of the State Address of his second term. Historically held in the Delaware House of Representatives chambers, Markell was joined by Lieutenant Governor Denn, members of the 147th General Assembly, members of the Judiciary and members of the Cabinet. The Governor’s address included increasing teacher salaries, several new energy and public safety initiatives and the possibility of extending a $200 million package of expiring tax hikes.
Beginning the address discussing globalization and the political posturing in Washington, Markell reminded his colleagues that “Delaware is not Washington”, calling Delaware a “state of neighbors” and urged Delaware officials to “not choose what is easiest for us today, but to create a better world for our children tomorrow.” Markell remarked that the key to winning the global competition for talent begins in Delaware schools.
During the joint session of the General Assembly on Thursday, Governor Markell stated that compensation and career paths for teachers need to be improved to retain skilled educators. Markell cited that forty percent of new teachers in Delaware leave teaching within four years. Markell urged that the field of education needs a “rigorous exit assessment for our preparation programs, which includes demonstration of content knowledge as well as teaching skills.”
Governor Markell also asked lawmakers to reexamine the pay structure to incentivize teaching in high-need schools and critical subjects. “…we should strengthen our compensation system to better attract great teachers where we need them,” stated Governor Markell. Our highest-poverty schools in Delaware have almost twice the teacher turnover of our lowest-poverty schools…First year teachers deciding where to teach can make thousands more in Pocomoke, Kennett Square, and Salem than in Bridgeville, Felton, or Bear.”
When it comes to energy, Governor Markell stated his support for numerous utility-scale clean and efficient natural gas plants and called for an expansion of natural gas infrastructure across the state. “Too many in Delaware are paying too much for energy because they are too far from a pipeline to bring them affordable natural gas,” stated Markell. “The energy savings from fuel switching are substantial and can cover the costs of new infrastructure. “
Dealing with public safety issues, Governor Markell asked the General Assembly to support the hiring of addition Delaware State Troopers. “Last year, I authorized six new state troopers from the Violent Crime Fund to focus on the violent gangs and drug-trafficking groups that commit the majority of homicides in Delaware,” stated Governor Markell. “This year, I propose funding for six additional troopers with the same focus.” Markell proposed more opportunities for after-school and summer activities that get kids off the streets be provided to Delaware children. “We know what after-school and summer programs do for kids: research has demonstrated that they improve academic performance, reduce drop-out rates, reduce depression, improve self-control and self-esteem, and prevent risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol use and juvenile crime,” stated Governor Markell
While explaining how these new initiatives would be payed for, Governor Markell stated that “while we want to keep taxes low – and Delaware’s are attractive – we should not shortchange our children and their future to pay for unaffordable tax cuts today.” This was seen by many to be a reference to Markell’s preference to extend the life of the temporary tax hikes that were enacted in 2009 as a larger effort to close a nearly $800 million shortfall. In closing, Governor Markell stated that our obligations as Delawareans is to “prepare the way for their world – a Delaware better than anything that came before it.”