Despite facing a $40 million decline in revenue estimates for the coming fiscal year, Delaware Governor Jack Markell maintains that the state economy is moving in the right direction.
“It’s always a challenge when there’s less,” he said.
Markell observed that the state has been through this a number of times, facing dramatic declines in the revenue forecast from the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council. According to last week’s revenue estimate from DEFAC, Delaware will get $40 million less than previously expected for the coming fiscal year, which starts on July 1.
“The irony this time is that the economy is actually doing a little bit better, we created over 8,000 jobs last year,” Markell said in an interview that aired on WHYY’s First. The jobless rate has dropped steadily and now stands at six percent as of February, according to numbers also released last week.
Amidst this mixed bag of economic data looms Markell’s efforts to get a gas tax increase and a new clean water program fee approved by state lawmakers. With even some legislators in the governor’s own party balking at the increases, it could be an uphill battle to secure passage in a year when many lawmakers are up for reelection.
“This is not a popularity contest,” Markell said, admitting that his proposals may not be popular. “As an elected official, none of us likes to go to the public and say, ‘We think you ought to pay more for this or that.'”
He also acknowledged the difficulty some lawmakers and residents might have in approving of his plans.
“These are difficult asks that I’m making,” he said. “I understand that they’re difficult.”
Markell said that he cannot get the gas tax increase or the clean water fee to get approved by himself, and is making his case up and down the state to secure support. He hopes that the fees are seen as necessary, even if residents do not wish for them.
“Whether or not a majority or the necessary number of people in the General Assembly vote for it or not, I don’t know,” Markell said. “We’ll just have to see, but I’m going to continue to make the pitch.”