'We are eager for what lies ahead' - Gov. Carney strikes optimistic tone in State of the State
Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Carney lauded the state's ability to weather that crisis with an eye toward the future during his nearly 30 minute State of the State.
"Because of the incredible strength of the people of our state. And because of their resilience. I can tell you confidently today that the state of our state is strong," said Carney. "And we are eager for what lies ahead."
Carney specifically touted his Administration’s job creation efforts, noting the state has created 20,000 jobs despite the pandemic.
But he added there is still work to do since Delaware employers have more than 33,000 open positions, and only 26,000 Delawareans are actively looking for work.
“Going forward, building a workforce ready for jobs of the future may be our biggest challenge – here in Delaware and across the nation,” said Carney.
He says that’s why he has the state using $50 million in federal stimulus funds to strengthen workforce training programs and expanding the Pathways programs in public middle schools and high schools – so that by next year, it to reach more than 6,000 middle school students and 80% of high school students.
And Carney also threw his weight behind Senate Bill 1 from State Senator Sarah McBride, which would give Delaware workers up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.
“It’s the right thing to do - and it will make Delaware more attractive for younger workers for whom we are competing for every day.” he said.
Carney also touted efforts to address housing up and down the state.
He pointed out the State Housing Authority has made $50 million in rental and mortgage assistance available and promised that over the next three years, the state plans to invest federal dollars to revitalize and develop more than 1,200 affordable housing units in Kent and Sussex counties as well as expand down payment and settlement assistance for homebuyers.
“These investments will go a long way to support Delawareans who need it most – and strengthen our economy at the same time,” said Carney
He also highlighted plans to invest over $100 million in federal money to make sure all Delawareans, but especially those in in Kent and Sussex counties, have access to a hardwired internet connection. He says close to 11,600 Delaware homes and businesses lack access to high-speed broadband.
It’s also way past time to make sure every home and business is connected to the internet,’ said Carney. “Delawareans rely on stable internet connections to apply for jobs, help their children do homework, work from home, or continue their education online.”
Carney notes federal stimulus money will also be used on gun violence prevention in Wilmington and Dover, libraries in every county, and modernizing nonprofits’ buildings so they can better serve people.
A fair amount of Carney's speech also focused on education, specifically pressing for support for his Wilmington Learning Collaborative. It aims to transform the underperforming elementary and middle schools in the state's largest city.
"We’re asking districts that serve our students in the city – Red Clay, Brandywine, and Christina – to work together on behalf of these children," said Carney.
"This model will place more decision-making in the hands of educators and local communities. And it’ll offer more support for students, families, and importantly the teachers in the classroom."
Carney also provided a hint of what to expect next week when he unveils his budget proposal for next fiscal year - pointing out the state has made it through the pandemic without budget cuts, tax increases or state employee layoffs.
"Next week, I will present a budget that stays true to these principles. We will again invest in our classrooms with the expansion of Opportunity Funding. We will use one-time revenue to continue the largest infrastructure program in Delaware history," said Carney. "We have a unique opportunity to make real progress on these issues not just because of our work here in Delaware.
But also because of the passage of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure bill."
"With these investments, we’ll strengthen our economy, expand opportunity, and support families as we finally emerge from this pandemic," said Carney. "And we’ll do it responsibly."
Carney closed by paying tribute to Delaware's first woman Governor, Ruth Ann Minner, who died last November. Carney served as Lt. Gov. under Minner.
"One thing you could count on with Ruth Ann, though, was when she faced a political issue or policy choice, she always approached it through the lens of: how it will affect people’s everyday lives," said Carney "And another thing you could count on, was that when she made a tough call – and she had to make many – she would stand by it."
Carney said he has tried to do the same.
"Throughout this pandemic, I’ve had to make a lot of tough calls. I know we’ve not always agreed on every decision. And I respect those differences. But I hope you know this. I have always put Delawareans first," said Carney.
Read the full speech here: