State lawmakers react to Gov. Carney's state of the state address
Gov. John Carney’s State of the State hit a few points lawmakers on both sides of the aisle can agree on.
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers agreed Carney may not have been bold enough in outlining his agenda this year.
While Carney’s speech was mostly reflective, highlighting all the work done managing the COVID-19 pandemic, he also touched on some legislative priorities.
That list includes $50 million for a Clean Water Trust Fund. House Minority Leader Danny Short (R-Seaford) agrees clean water is a big concern statewide.
“For example my district is Blades, they are getting ready to do a major project to continue to have clean water and remember they were one of the communities that had to have bottled water brought in for many weeks because of the PFAS issues that they had with their own wells,” said Short.
The trust fund was proposed last year, but cut from the budget due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
State Sen. Marie Pinkney (D-Bear) sees a connection between clean water and racial justice.
“One of the things that we know is that Black and brown communities are the ones that are disproportionately impacted when it comes to clean water and so improving health outcomes and environmental outcomes for Black and brown communities is of the utmost importance to me and I’m very glad that we have the governor’s support behind it,” said Pinkney.
More on funding the Clean Water Trust Fund and Carney’s other spending priorities will come in his budget presentation on Thursday.
One of Carney’s main focal points was improving racial equity in the state. His proposals include delivering body-worn cameras for police statewide.
State Sen. Elizabeth Lockman (D-Wilmington) is confident the legislature will secure funding for the cameras.
“We included that in our short list of our Justice for all agenda items for a reason, because we think it’s very achievable in the short term and would have a meaningful impact in the short term,” said Lockman.
Carney also highlighted efforts to support Black owned businesses and provide more jobs for people of color in the state, who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
State Sen. Ernie Lopez (R-Rehoboth Beach) says he didn’t hear enough about supporting small businesses in the state.
“When I think about the suffering that our small business community has, particularly small businesses owned by minority business owners have suffered," said Lopez. "And when I think of Sussex County and areas of Georgetown and the Latino community especially, I think of the disparities in regards to the support that they’ve received in regards to some other areas across the state.”
Lopez adds he’d like to see more efforts to provide support and relief to small businesses up and down the state as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll.
Republican lawmakers latched onto one of Carney’s points, which they believe is a big legislative priority this session: broadband internet access.
Sen. Brian Pettyjohn (R-Georgetown) says more investments need to be made expanding internet access in rural Delaware.
“We did that initial investment and then we had significant investment come from the CARES act to expand that and accelerate it," said Pettyjohn. "I think this is something that needs to be high up on that priority list on an ongoing basis as well just for the educational and economic advantages that that’s gonna pay back over many years to come.”
Alongside the environment and racial justice, Carney also made education funding a focus this year.
As part of a settlement with the NAACP and the ACLU, the state has agreed to double Opportunity Funding to help disadvantaged students across the state.
The state also agreed to fully fund K-3 special education programming, consistent with grads 4-12.
Sen. Lockman thinks Carney needs to take broader steps in funding an equitable education system rather than what was agreed to in the settlement.
“So while I definitely see that opportunity funding as a good start, and important to highlight, again, it’s really a floor for what I hope to see us accomplishing this year, in that we can be aiming even higher as we move towards June 30th,” said Lockman.
Lockeman is one of the co-chairs of the Redding Consortium, which presented its interim recommendations earlier this month.
The group is asking for an increase of up to $32 million to fund what it calls “critical interim measures” all aimed at improving equity in the educational system.
Whether or not the governor will recommend funding those programs will show in his budget presentation on Thursday.
Roman Battaglia a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.