by Terry Rogers
On Monday, February 11, Governor John Carney partnered with Senator Dave Wilson as well as Representatives W. Shannon Morris, Jesse Vanderwende, Bryan Shupe and Charles Postles for a town hall meeting at Carlisle Fire Company in Milford. The Governor presented a brief synopsis of the state of the state before taking questions from the audience.
“What a difference two years makes,” Governor Carney said. “Last time I was here, we were facing a budget deficit and I was asking you for ideas in how to deal with that. One statement stood out with me and I have mentioned it often over the last two years. One man who was here said “Governor, I don’t mind paying a little bit extra as long as you and the state run as efficiently as possible.” I have taken that to heart over the past two years and I am hoping to stand here today to show you how we have done that.”
Governor Carney pointed out that the economy was growing and that business owners were telling him that they were so busy, they had difficulty finding employees to do the work. The Governor explained that, especially in construction, there was a severe shortage of tradesmen to do the work. He was also excited that the unemployment rate was at an all-time low for the decade and that much of this could be contributed to the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, a group run by a board created from up and down the state who were helping to grow jobs, attract businesses and helping the economy grow.
“We need new old jobs,” Governor Carney said. “Those manufacturing jobs in businesses that are no longer operating. They were an important part of our economy. We are trying to attract more of those new old jobs but we are also creating innovative new jobs in those areas that used to be industrial. Places like the Port of Wilmington that are being refurbished for new industry.”
Good schools were critical to a thriving economy, Governor Carney explained. He said that when he talks to companies, they tell him that when they decide to move into a new location, 40 percent of the decision is based on how good the workforce is and without a good school system, the workforce suffers. The state has a new initiative designed to make sure that every third grader can read and all eighth graders are proficient in math, both areas that are critical for a child’s future learning and where the state had fallen behind in recent years.
“The one thing we have done that I am most proud of is the Government Efficiency and Accounting Review Board,” Governor Carney said. “This addresses what the man in this room asked me to do two years ago. This board’s mission is to streamline state expenditures as much as possible and to make sure we are operating at peak efficiency.”
Questions from the audience were varied. Paul Williamson expressed concerns about speeding on area highways, specially Route 1. He provided information about revenue collected by Maryland and the District of Columbia after they installed cameras designed to catch speeders. Rob Coupe, Department of Safety and Homeland Security, explained that Delaware did use street light cameras and there was discussion to add cameras to school bus stop arms in order to catch those who passed stopped buses. He suggested that Mr. Williamson contact his local Delaware State Police Troop if he notices problem areas so they can stop up patrols. Governor Carney commented that he did not want to use speed enforcement as a revenue source.
Eric Rouche, whose son was applying to colleges to attend in the fall, questioned what the state planned to do to address higher education costs.
“College tuition costs over the past 30 years have risen higher than healthcare,” Governor Carney said. “We need to find a way to increase student aid but we have to balance that with the other needs of the state. There are options for students including the SEED and INSPIRE programs which can offset the cost of education, but I agree that paying for college can be difficult today.”
Along the lines of education, Governor Carney also promotes helping districts from the state level rather than regulating them strictly. He feels that if Milford has a program that is working, it should be shared with other districts who need to address the same problem. The Governor is a strong believer in flexibility in education.
Nadia Zychal asked the Governor if he supported legislation that was recently introduced that would add extra tax brackets. She felt that the brackets were a good idea because they would help reduce the burden on lower income taxpayers but raise taxes on wealthier people.
“In my opinion, it is more important to stay competitive with surrounding states,” Governor Carney said. “We want to keep taxes here lower to encourage people to live and work here. In the last negotiation, I did support the bracket increase but that one did not pass. The problem we have now is that a bracket change would result in something that is revenue neutral. Someone will get a tax cut and someone will get a tax increase when we don’t need the extra income. It is not just about revenue, it is also about how we compare to Pennsylvania.”
Healthcare was also discussed during the meeting with the Governor asked why Delaware had the third highest healthcare expenditure but did not rank in the top ten for medical care. The Governor acknowledged that this was an issue in the state, but with the hospitals in Delaware non-profit, it was much more difficult to control what they charged for services.
“The Lieutenant Governor is working on a program that will identify people with controlled diabetes,” Governor Carney said. “How many people are visiting the emergency room with non-emergent conditions? Controlled chronic illnesses can help control medical costs while treating non-emergencies in an emergency room can drive up costs. She is also looking at programs that encourage people to become more active and watch what they eat in an effort to reduce medical costs in the state.”
State directors and cabinet members remained after the meeting to talk to any constituents who had more questions and the Governor suggested that anyone with questions contact their local member of the legislature to bring it to their attention.
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