Markell on infrastructure needs, marijuana and more [video]

 DelDOT closed this portion of DuPont Rd. in Elsmere after a large hole was discovered. (John Jankowksi/for NewsWorks)

DelDOT closed this portion of DuPont Rd. in Elsmere after a large hole was discovered. (John Jankowksi/for NewsWorks)

“States around us are making huge investments in transportation,” Delaware Governor Jack Markell said. “We just have to make more investments in our roads and bridges.”

Dead on arrival.

That was the reaction from lawmakers last year when Markell initially proposed a 10-cent increase in the gas tax to fund transportation improvements. This year, Markell is putting it up to lawmakers to come up with a solution. 

“I’d be fine doing that again,” Markell said of the gas tax increase in an interview with First. “Not everybody seemed to be all that interested in that last year during an election year, but I look forward to working with legislators this year if they have other ideas.”

Lawmakers were reminded of the need to repair state roads when DelDOT had to issue an emergency closure of DuPont Road at Kirkwood Highway. A nearly two foot wide hole was discovered on a bridge in Elsmere.

Markell said neighboring states have used an increased gas tax to make improvements to their transportation systems while Delaware did not.  He’s used that comparison to pitch the need for infrastructure upgrades in front of real estate and business groups. “Do you really want to be in a state where your neighbors are making these big investments, their transportation systems are getting better, while your state’s not. I don’t think it’s a good place for us to be.”

Not funding transportation needs will hinder Delaware’s economy, Markell said. “A modern economy needs a modern transportation system. It’s not that complicated. So either we’re going to get with the program and figure it out, or we’re going to fall behind.”

Not while I’m governor

Fighting drug addiction and helping those who struggle with addiction has been a big part of Markell’s agenda over the last several years. It’s the only area where he has proposed new funding in the FY 2016 budget.

“We do see, frankly, a crisis across the country, and that crisis has hit right here in Delaware as well,” Markell said. 

While the state has been successful in reducing prescription drug abuse, heroin use has skyrocketed. “We have somebody die of an overdose in Delaware every other day.”

Markell’s budget proposal included $4 million to expand the number of treatment beds throughout the state for those struggling with addiction.

While the state has legalized medical marijuana, Markell is firmly against legalizing pot. “I am not in support of doing what they’ve done in Colorado or Washington state or a few other places doing full legalization. It’s not going to happen while I’m governor.” 

He said he is willing to look at decriminalizing marijuana, but not full legalization. “It may be the right thing, but I don’t think we know, and I think we need to take a few years and see what the impact has been.” 

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