MILFORD — Delaware’s Governor John Carney visited Carlisle Fire Company last Wednesday to discuss the state of Delaware’s budget reset and hear comments from local citizens.
“As you know, Governor [Jack] Markell, when he left office, submitted a budget. You can throw out that budget,” Senator Gary Simpson said as he began the meeting with Representative Charles Postles.
“Governor Carney is starting fresh. As you know, we have a $350M deficit that we’re looking at, but I do want to tell you that’s not the worst our state finances have ever been in. When Governor Markell took office, the first year we were faced a $800M deficit. Now, $350M is a lot of dollars. Don’t mistake what I’m saying, but we have to come through this, we will come through this and I think through your help and suggestions that might come out of this meeting and others the governor is going to statewide, it will give us a path and state legislature a path as well.”
To address the budget deficit, Gov. Markell previously suggested several ideas including tax increases and shifting some of the financial “burden” onto the counties and school districts, Sen. Simpson added.
Gov. Carney began his portion of the meeting with confidence that the problem will be solved through a “shared sacrifice by everyone.”
Adding to the budget crisis, he said, is lower than anticipated revenues to the state and higher expenses including more student enrollment and increased Medicaid costs while needing to continue service levels provided by the state.
“We will submit a resolution,” he said, adding that it should not only be balanced, but fair and equitable to everyone involved, too.
“I heard when Senator Simpson said Govenor Markell’s budget was dead, somebody in the back cheered. My guess is there’s a lot in our budget you’re not going to like either,” he said.
After opening the floor to questions from the crowd that filled the hall at Carlisle Fire Company, several questions were raised regarding education needs and budgeting. Recognizing the expense needs and rising costs, he spoke to the crowd of the importance of education and supporting local districts, teachers and students.
“A greater percentage of that student growth is students with learning disabilities. As more children are classified as special education or special needs, that number will keep going up,” he said addressing a question from the crowd.
The Milford School District and local residents saw this problem first-hand last year as school taxes were raised through the tuition tax which pays for services to the student-aged special needs community living within the district among other needs.
Pastor Andy Stevens, chairman of the Economic Development Commission through the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford, switched gears, asking if there have been any new ideas to help get residents out of economic poverty.
Time limits and workforce training requirements were cited by Gov. Carney as struggles.
“We have a lot of jobs out there, seriously. But what we have is a mismatch. If you don’t have a high school degree in this economy, it is really hard,” he said.
Pathways offered by high schools throughout the state now work to help alleviate that concern by offering needed training to students before graduation such as the allied health pathway new to Milford High School.
“If you don’t have any support for the market, it’s just a no-go,” Gov. Carney added. “Probably the most important thing we can do to make our state more competitive is to invest in our education.”
The state of Delaware currently offers grants and other assistance for high schools beginning pathways for its students.
Sending money into programs for senior residents is also a concern, Gov. Carney said while responding to questions from Ken Brock, director of CHEER, Inc. in Georgetown. He was concerned with not seeing growth in programs which could save long-term money by helping seniors and Medicare pay less for monthly living expenses.
Other hot topic issues were brought up throughout the evening, including pensions, state employee pay and legalization of marijuana.
“We’re going to get better and give you guys a better place to live,” Gov. Carney said as he wrapped up the event.
More information on the budget reset process can be found online at www.de.gov/budgetreset. Comments, suggestions or concerns can be e-mailed to Gov. Carney at email@example.com.
Jennifer Antonik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org