Carney praises funds practices for serving to state climate Covid-19 storm
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Governor backs 40% alt energy mandate, mail-in voting
Gov. John Carney credits “sustainable budget practices” that have allowed the state to weather the Covid-19 crisis.
“The state of our state is resilient,” Carney said in a socially distant State of the State address Tuesday afternoon in a largely empty state Senate chamber.
In his remarks, Carney struck a cautiously upbeat tone, citing the state’s 5.3 percent jobless rate as a hopeful sign.
Carney cited the decision to set aside a reserve (budget smoothing) that helped the Delaware avoid the deficits facing other states
Despite the pandemic, the state is seeing a budget surplus, thanks to CARES Act funding that picked up many of the expenses related to dealing with the virus. It also helped that New Castle County received CARES Act funding, with some of those proceedings going to the state.
Carney acknowledged the pain suffered by restaurants, bars, hotels and cited the state’s HELP program provided $200 million in assistance. The HELP program was financed by the federal CARES Act. Despite the assistance, the restaurant industry has cited the continuing loss of jobs and restrictions that have limited occupancy to 30 percent of fire codes.
He also noted that a large chunk of CARES Act funding went to stabilize the state unemployment insurance fund and avoid a future increase in the tax paid by employers and employees.
The governor noted that the state processed 120,000 unemployment claims, several times the normal level.
Carney threw his support behind an expansion of the state’s renewable standard from 25 percent by 2025 to 40 percent by 2035. The energy standard is being adopted by other states but has drawn opposition in some quarters, since the state, due to its small size, has a limited ability to produce alternative energy on its own soil.
Carney again proposed a site readiness fund that would assist businesses seeking to expand or relocate to Delaware.
He also proposed an initiative to deal with a shortage of laboratory space that could help companies “start here, grow here and stay here.”
“There’s a long, long road ahead of us, but we have turned the corner,” Carney said of the state’s effort to combat coronavirus. Johns Hopkins reports Delaware now ranks ninth among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in its volume of testing per 100,000 population.
Carney said the state is making progress in its Covid-19 vaccination program. Mass vaccinations were held over the weekend at DMV centers that inoculated 11,500 residents.
Turning to public education and broadband Internet access, Carney said the state made headway in eliminating “Internet deserts” in portions of Kent and Sussex counties. Filling those gaps aided students learning from home.
Carney also recommended making current technology practices that allow the public to view meetings. Republican legislators have expressed unhappiness with remote sessions when it comes to important pieces of legislation.
Carney also proposed stepped up opportunity funding aimed at assisting lower-income public school students and expanded pre-kindergarten programs for lower-income families.
Carney also backs making mail-in voting permanent. Last year’s move to mail-in ballots was a temporary pandemic-related measure.
The State of the State Address is a general outline of the governor’s priorities. It is followed by a budget address with more details.