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Gov. Carney makes first address to General Assembly

James Dawson, Delaware Public Media
Gov. John Carney (D) shortly before addressing a joint session of the General Assembly for the first time.

Gov. John Carney (D) doubled down on his platform to permanently fix Delaware’s budget woes, expand the economy and revamp the state’s school system.

Much of Carney’s speech focused on his approach to spur job growth by helping startup companies, redeveloping old industrial sites and getting private sector investments.

Part of that involves turning the state’s economic development department into a public-private partnership. A task force will deliver its report to Carney next week on how to remodel the department.

The new governor also took a controversial step - calling for an overhaul of the Coastal Zone Act, which strictly regulates heavy industry along the Delaware River and bayshore.

“Other brownfields will require a fresh look at our venerable Coastal Zone Act. I don't underestimate how hard this will be.  Or how important it is to protect the beautiful natural areas along our coastline,” Carney said.

Such permits are notoriously difficult to obtain, with business groups having lobbied for changes for years.

Highlights of Gov. Carney's address and lawmaker reaction.

Carney is also backing efforts to make it easier for people to access drug addiction treatment and stop the overprescribing of opioid drugs in the first place.

“A major impediment to families being stable and successful is the opioid crisis plaguing our state and country,” he said.

“When last measured, Delaware had the nation’s fifth highest overall rate of opioid sales. And in too many cases opioid abuse contributes to our state’s tragic heroin problem.”

The bills have already been heard in committee and are expected to hit the floors of the House and Senate soon.

A slate of programs from Delaware’s Department of Education are undergoing an internal review as well, as Carney attempts to remodel it into an assisting role instead of a regulator.

As part of that plan, he wants to offer competitive grants to schools that target low-income students or others with high needs instead of building a dedicated funding system for them.

“One school may need a stronger pre-school program so students arrive at kindergarten ready to learn. Another may need an after-school program. Our solution will not be one size fits all,” Carney said.

He defended his mix of tax hikes and spending cuts to help backfill a projected $386 million budget shortfall.

The Carney Administration has spent the past month and a half at more than a dozen town hall meetings about the budget.

Lawmakers will start marking up his spending plan in May.

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