Delaware lawmakers weigh in on State of the State

 Gov. Jack Markell delivers his eighth and final State of the State Address to a joint session of the General Assembly in Dover. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Gov. Jack Markell delivers his eighth and final State of the State Address to a joint session of the General Assembly in Dover. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Members of the General Assembly assess Governor Markell’s eighth and final State of the State Address.

A joint session of the General Assembly squeezed into the House chambers in Legislative Hall Thursday afternoon to hear the governor’s speech.

A number of Republicans gave Markell high marks for his speech as he enters the final year as governor. “I think it was generally overall a positive message, and much of what I expected, said State Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson, R- Milford. State House Minority Whip Deborah Hudson, R- Fairthorne, agreed. “I do believe he’s been a very effective governor, he’s innovative, he’s bright,” Hudson said. “I think now he’s playing catch-up on business incentives, tax credits for business and it’s sad to me because we in the House tried to push that all along.”

In his speech, Markell touted how the state rebounded from the great recession of 2008 and 2009, adding more than 50,000 jobs with a job growth rate of 13 percent, better than all neighboring states. State Sen. David Lawson, R- Marydel, thought that was overstating the state’s economic success just a bit. “It’s certainly grown, but I don’t know by the grandiose approach that he gave,” Lawson said. “We have 13,000 more jobs this year, but they’re not high paying jobs, they’re not the DuPont level jobs, they’re again entry level.”

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State Senator Colin Bonini, R- Dover South, who is running to be Delaware’s next governor took the biggest shot at Markell’s plans. “I think he did a very good speech, it was obviously very well-choreographed, but I tell you, I think it’s missing the basic points. The governor painted a very rosy picture of where we are and I just don’t think that’s where Delawareans think we are, and quite frankly that’s not where we are,” Bonini said. He countered Markell’s assessment of the state of Delaware being stronger than it has been in years. “We have schools…in Wilmington where 13 percent of 8th graders can read and write…We have the 5th most expensive state government in the country, we have an economy that I would argue is one of the worst in the country.”

Markell’s fellow Democrats were happy for the most part with the accomplishments Markell has made in a variety of areas that he highlighted during the speech. For State House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D- Bear City, it was the progress on veterans’ issues. “I was really impressed with the amount of work we’ve done with veterans and getting the homeless off the streets.  I personally didn’t realize how much of an impact that that had but it’s something that I just felt like blew my mind.”

It was the state’s efforts to reform the way victims of substance abuse are treated that got applause from Senator Margaret Rose Henry, D- Wilmington East. “I’m so happy that the governor recognizes that substance abuse is a serious problem in our community as it crosses all income levels, all ages, all ethnicities.  So one of the things we need to do is stop locking people up for minor drug trafficking, not selling but people who are using drugs.”

Markell will give lawmakers even more to respond to next Thursday when he unveils his budget for Fiscal Year 2017 which starts this July 1.

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