Governor John Carney pledged to invest in schools, jobs and infrastructure in 2022 during his annual state of state address delivered in the Dover chamber of parliament on Thursday.
Carney began his speech, the fifth of his term, by recognizing the nearly two years of sacrifice and loss that Delaware residents have endured during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Last but not least, that’s what we all have in common,” Carney said. “And as we’ve learned the hard way over the past few weeks, we’re not done yet.”
When he gave the same speech two years ago, a crowd of lawmakers and other officials in the same Houseroom beamed at a projected $200 million revenue surplus and ambitious promises about how the money would be spent.
These promises of 2020 were not fulfilled as the virus took its toll on the economy and therefore on government revenues. But now lawmakers are expecting an even more generous sales guidance of $800 million this year. Carney is expected to release his spending plan next week.
Thursday’s speech was delivered to a room of lawmakers wearing KN-95 and N-95 masks. The event was largely closed to the public but was streamed online.
There were few, if any, surprises, and much of what Carney mentioned in his speech was announced or promised in previous press conferences.
However, the biggest topic on Thursday was the economic development despite the impending danger from the Omicron variant.
He began his speech by thanking the Delaware National Guard and public health officials for fighting the ongoing pandemic, which has reached an all-time high and has overwhelmed Delaware hospitals as Carney took the podium. The day before, lawmakers passed legislation to cut nursing certification requirements by 59 hours to speed up the deployment of nursing assistants at facilities struggling with staff shortages.
But access to jobs and infrastructure seemed to be the priority. Carney said expanding economic opportunity for families in Delaware “has to be job number one.”
Here are eight takeaways from the address:
READ SPEECH:Read Delaware Governor John Carney’s full speech
Delaware’s unemployment rate is just over 5 percent, down from its peak of 13.4 percent in April 2020, Carney said — part of a recovery faster than “we could have imagined.”
However, because filling vacancies is still a dilemma (local employers have more than 33,000 open positions compared to 26,000 residents looking for work), the state plans to spend $50 million in federal stimulus funds to “support our training programs.” for workers,” said Carney.
Most of that money goes to Forward Delaware, a program designed to help people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic gain training and hiring opportunities in industries that need labor, such as agriculture. B. healthcare, construction, hospitality, transportation and technology. The Carney government created Forward Delaware in 2020 with funds from the federal CARES Act. They announced in October that they will use $40 million in American Rescue Plan aid funds to beef it up.
The state will also spend $8.3 million on a $15.8 million public-private expansion of Delaware’s Pathways, a program that began in 2015 that helps students become “hands-on” during their school years to gain work experience. It serves about 20,000 high school students.
By 2023, those investments will expand the Pathways program to reach more than 6,000 middle school students and 80 percent of high school students, Carney said.
Carney also pledged to include a plan to support low-income government employees in his spending plan next week.
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2. Federal money brings new spending options
Carney also took the time to commend President Joe Biden’s federal funds from the administration and Congress, which most recently provided more than $1 billion to Delaware through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
“In terms of national and international attention, it certainly doesn’t hurt to be the home of the President of the United States,” Carney said.
Carney offered no dollar amounts, but hinted at some expenses.
Some of the things they plan to spend money on include building and upgrading libraries, upgrading nonprofit buildings, increasing resources for gun violence prevention programs in Wilmington and Dover, improving mental health services, the Repairing roads and bridges, investing in public transport and building more electric vehicles Infrastructure and climate protection.
Carney also said the state plans to “supercharge” its largest infrastructure plan.
3. Businesses coming to Delaware
Carney praised several incoming companies that he said offer employment opportunities.
He dubbed the financial tech startup Investor Cash Management, which announced its move from Chicago to Wilmington in December. The company plans to spend $15 million on its new downtown headquarters and create nearly 400 new jobs, Carney said.
Carney also pointed to Prelude Therapeutics, a company focused on innovative cancer treatments that recently signed a 13-year lease for a new headquarters on DuPont’s old Chestnut Run campus.
He also pointed to Incyte, a biopharmaceutical company that has almost completed its Wilmington building that will house 500 employees.
Baltimore-based textile maker Avalon Industries is moving to Dover, Miller Metal is adding jobs in Bridgeville, and WuXi STA Pharmaceuticals plans to create 500 jobs and a half-billion dollar capital investment in a “massive” new manufacturing facility in Middletown. Carney said.
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4. New Schools, a push to transform Wilmington schools
Carney pledged to spend more than $300 million to build schools “from Wilmington to Dover to Georgetown” over the next two years.
Carney also advocated the creation of the “Wilmington Learning Collaborative,” which would include a new board of directors and a partnership between the Christina, Red Clay, and Brandywine school districts to improve the city’s education system.
Carney said Wilmington’s children “are not getting the education they need to be successful in life” and that the collaboration is based on successful models in other parts of the US, giving educators and local communities more decision-making power.
5. Support for Paid Family Leave
Governor John Carney showed his support for a bill to create a statewide paid family and medical leave insurance program.
Carney and business leaders were initially reluctant when Senator Sarah McBride, a Wilmington Democrat, introduced them last year. McBride plans to introduce a new version of the bill this year that will include changes based on feedback from stakeholders, including the business community. Carney’s endorsement means it’s likely to happen.
“It’s the right thing — and it will make Delaware more attractive to younger workers,” Carney said.
With federal funding, the State Housing Authority is working with the private sector to rebuild the Riverside community in northeast Wilmington, Carney said.
In October, officials announced that the state would allocate $26.4 million in federal funding to an existing Riverside neighborhood revitalization project run by the nonprofit REACH Riverside. The money will help build 350 affordable homes in two years, they said.
Carney pledged to invest federal dollars over the next three years to “revitalize and develop” more than 1,200 affordable housing units in the counties of Kent and Sussex.
The state will also expand down payment and settlement assistance for homebuyers, and the housing authority has allocated $50 million for rent and mortgage assistance, Carney said during his speech.
7. Internet access
The state plans to spend more than $100 million in federal money to get more people online, mostly in the counties of Kent and Sussex.
State officials claimed in an August document to the federal government that the investment will make Delaware the first state to “close every last mile of connectivity statewide.”
Nearly 11,600 Delaware homes and businesses lack high-speed broadband access, Carney said Thursday.
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8. The spending plan will be very similar to previous years
Carney’s spending plan, which he is expected to release next week, will look very similar to his previous spending plans as governor: use extra income for one-off expenses while saving some for less fortunate years.
Carney pledged to use the additional proceeds to “continue the largest infrastructure program in Delaware history.” In 2021, he signed the largest bond bill in Delaware history at $1.3 billion, nearly double the $708 million bill he signed in 2020.
On Thursday, Carney also promised state employees no budget cuts, no tax increases and no layoffs.
He also pledged to expand Opportunity Funding, which Carney launched in 2018 to give schools additional funding for English learners and low-income students. In October 2020, the state reached a legal settlement that makes “opportunity funding” an integral part of the state’s allocation of student taxpayer dollars.
The investments are possible in part thanks to Biden’s infrastructure spending bill, he said.
“With these investments, we will strengthen our economy, expand opportunities and support families when we finally emerge from this pandemic,” he said.
Sarah Gamard reports on government and politics for Delaware Online/The News Journal. You can reach them at (302) 324-2281 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @SarahGamard.
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