Gov. Jack Markell will deliver his final State of the State address at 2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21.
When he was inaugurated in January 2009, Gov. Jack Markell laid out a determined agenda for his administration. Making its way through the Great Recession, Delaware was struggling with unemployment, soaring costs and huge deficits that faced the rest of the nation.
Solving those problems would not be painless or easy, Markell said. He promised efforts to create growth, spend smarter, improve education, promote entrepreneurship and make the government more transparent.
Seven years later, Markell recognizes that he still much to accomplish during his final year in the Governor’s Mansion.
“We have accomplished a lot in the past seven years, but the job is never done and I have a responsibility to work every day in my last year to make more progress and set the next administration up for more success,” he said.
Markell will take up many of those issues in his final State of the State address, 2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21.
Under Delaware’s Constitution, the governor is required “from time to time” to tell members of the General Assembly about issues that concern the state and to “recommend to its consideration” issues he feels should be taken up by legislators.
In the eight days leading up to the speech, Markell’s staff has been dropping hints about the governor’s priorities for the next 12 months by reviewing what they feel has been accomplished over the past seven years.
“We don’t want to steal our own thunder,” Jonathan Dworkin, Director of Strategic Communications, said.
Without going into specifics, Dworkin said Markell’s theme will be “expecting more.”
“I think you’ve heard in the past and it has always been that he wants to provide a perspective of where we are and the progress we’ve made,” he said. “[The governor] is certainly conscious that this is his last one, but at the same time he’s always been driving toward the next day and taking advantage of every day he has in office.
“He feels it’s important to lay out a vision for the future and the State of the State is an opportunity to do that.”
Look for Markell to continue his focus on education, jobs and economic growth, Dworkin said.
The governor has promoted programs to improve early childhood education and the state has seen a marked improvement in high school graduation rates, Dworkin said.
Delawareans also have more access to healthcare, with the rate of uninsured in the state dropping from 10.7 percent in 2013 to 5.4 percent in 2014. Efforts are underway to reduce infant mortality and to increase access to substance abuse treatments, he said.
On the economic front, the state has experienced the fastest job growth in the region, Dworkin said. The full effect of the DuPont merger with Dow Chemical, which will cost the state more than 1,700 jobs, has yet to be felt.
“If you take a step back and look at the big picture, the state has made a lot of progress since we hit rock bottom during the recession,” Dworkin said. “The state has been leading the region in job growth in terms of coming back from that and we’re at an all time high in terms of the number of jobs in the state.”
When he took office, Markell faced a major deficit and called for cuts in the state budget.
“When I took office, we immediately began indentifying areas to scale back and make more efficient use of our resources,” Markell said. Cutbacks included eliminating more than 1,100 positions, cutting energy costs, reducing the number of state employees by almost 700 and enacting state employee pension and health care reform.
Other states dipped into their savings to help meet budgets, he said.
“Delaware chose not to take such action and has been rewarded by maintaining a AAA bond rating each year, which means taxpayers continue to benefit from lower costs for important projects like construction at schools, libraries and other facilities,” he said.
On another subject, Markell has lived up to a 2009 promise to make Delaware government more transparent, despite an “F” rating from the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity, which looks at state government accountability, Dworkin said.
“[The governor] believes we have a never-ending responsibility to look for ways to increase governmental transparency and increase the public’s confidence in our political process,” he said.
Markell has promoted campaign finance reform and issued an executive order mandating changes to the Freedom of Information Act that make it easier and less costly to obtain government documents, Dworkin said.
Markell’s State of the State speech to a joint session of the General Assembly will be live-streamed at delaware.gov.
What do legislators want to hear during Gov. Jack Markell’s State of the State address?
“His priorities in spending and how he intends to balance the budget.” -- Rep. W. Charles “Trey” Paradee, D-Cheswold
“I would like to hear new and fresh ideas of how to work with the General Assembly to rein in regulation, promote prosperity and keep Delaware competitive with our neighbors, nation and globally.” -- Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Clayton
“That the governor’s budget will not rely on the instability of the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council’s numbers to resolve budgetary shortfalls. I want to see a focus on growing revenues and balanced cuts rather than relying on fluctuations in DEFAC to save the day. I want a more sustainable budgetary solution.” -- Rep. Sean M. Lynn, D-Dover
“DuPont leaving is just the latest evidence of our state heading in the wrong direction. Our economy must be better, our schools must be better and we must put the safety of our citizens above the wants of criminals. I hope to hear from the governor how he plans to turn Delaware’s state government around.” -- Sen. Colin R.M.J. Bonini, R-Dover South
“I’m hopeful the governor will use his final State of the State to recommit his administration to advancing Delaware’s middle class. To me, that means protecting and expanding opportunities for good jobs you can raise a family on, doing more to make college affordable for more students and protecting our quality of life across the state.” -- Rep. Andria Bennett, D-Dover
“I’d like to see the governor address the financial position of the state in regard to our revenues and expenses. We have large expenditures, for example, our Medicaid and state employees’ health insurance program; we need to proactively offer reforms to break their cost curves.” -- Rep. Lyndon Yearick, R-Dover South
“I would hope the governor would acknowledge that we have significant long-term liabilities that need addressing. Also, we need to look out for our small business owners and the jobs they create. But our first priority, as always, is protecting the safety and security of Delawareans.” Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel
“Given the devastating cuts at DuPont, I expect the governor to focus on economic development and strategic efforts to entice new employers to our state. That message needs to be balanced with some real consideration of how we can do more to help those being left behind in our economic recovery -- raising wages, increasing job training and taking steps to lower the cost of college.” Rep. Helene Keeley, D-Wilmington South