Carney focuses on jobs, education in speech to lawmakers

January 20, 2022 GMT

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Democratic Gov. John Carney stressed the need to expand Delaware’s economy and improve its public schools during his State of the State speech to lawmakers Thursday.

Carney also thanked state officials for their response to the coronavirus pandemic and Delawareans for their “resilience,” but warned that “we aren’t through it yet.”

“As we recover from this pandemic, it’s clear that expanding economic opportunity for all Delaware families must be job No. 1,” he said. “We can all agree on this: A good job solves a lot of problems.”

“Going forward, building a workforce ready for jobs of the future may be our biggest single challenge,” he added.

Describing the state of the state as “strong,” Carney said employers in Delaware have added 20,00 new jobs despite the pandemic and the state’s unemployment rate is less than half of the 13.4% peak in April 2020.

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He also rattled off a list of companies that are relocating or expanding in Delaware and noted the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds being used to improve infrastructure, strengthen workforce training programs, expand mental health services and provide more affordable housing.

Carney also used his speech to push for three school districts serving students who live in Wilmington to join in a voluntary “learning collaborative” aimed at providing consistency and more support for K-8 students and allowing more decision-making at the local level.

“Despite the best efforts of teachers and administrators, children in our largest city are not getting the education they need to be successful in life,” he said.

Carney also signaled his support for a bill introduced in the Senate last year requiring private-sector employers to provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.

“It’s the right thing to do, and it will make Delaware more attractive for younger workers,” he said.

Republican lawmakers said the proposal would impose significant hardships on many Delaware businesses.

GOP lawmakers did express support for Carney’s proposals to boost spending on farmland and open space preservation, clean water initiatives and access to high-speed broadband networks.

Carney, who will unveil his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year next week, also said Delaware needs to address its litter problem.

“Just look around. It’s a mess,” he said.

House Republican leaders, meanwhile, renewed their call for a variety of tax cuts to return surplus state revenues to taxpayers. They noted that, over the past six months, the panel that sets the state’s official revenue estimates boosted its projections for the current and upcoming fiscal years by more than $800 million.

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“After the bills are paid, and appropriate reserves are set aside, I believe government has a duty to return money to the people from which it was taken,” said Rep. Rich Collins, a Millsboro Republican. “That was an obligation the legislature failed to honor last year.”

The GOP proposals include cutting personal income tax rates by 10%; reducing the corporate income tax by almost 30%; and cutting the gross receipts tax on businesses, sometimes referred to as Delaware’s “hidden sales tax,” by 50%.

Republicans also have introduced bills to restore a real estate tax credit for senior citizens to its previous maximum of $500, decrease real estate transfer taxes and provide a $500 tax credit for low-income residents.