Governor Markell Lays out Vision to Position Delaware for Success in Years to Come

Photos from 2016 State of the State Address

Video of the 2016 State of the State Address

Final legislative and policy agenda seeks to leverage skilled workforce, high quality of life to create new opportunities for Delawareans

Dover, DE – In his final State of the State speech, Delaware Governor Jack Markell today proposed an agenda that positions Delaware to leverage its highly trained citizens and welcoming business climate to build opportunities for sustained job creation in an ever-changing economy. SOTS16

“It is our responsibility to provide Delawareans with the bridge to the life they want — workforce training for people who want to upgrade their skills; education that aligns with the knowledge they need in the new economy; affordable and high quality health care, safe communities, and more responsive government that supports their drive to succeed,” Markell said. “We have a lot more to do and new adversities to conquer. But our progress demonstrates that we are up to the challenge.”

“When I first stood before you, we faced a collapsing national economy and a growing deficit at a time of rapidly increasing demand for public services. As a result of the recession, more than five percent of Delaware’s jobs vanished. So we all got to work, improving our business climate and making difficult decisions to balance our budgets just as many Delawareans have had to do for their own. And we’ve done so while protecting the most vulnerable among us.”

“When we reflect on the challenges we have faced, we can be proud that even in the wake of the great recession, we did not settle for a return to the status quo.”

The Governor noted Delaware’s substantial progress over the past seven years:

  • Since the national economy bottomed out, Delaware’s job growth of 13 percent has outpaced all of our neighboring states, adding more than 50,000 jobs. During the past year alone an additional 13,700 Delawareans have found jobs.
  • Thanks to bipartisan compromise, construction workers are being put back on the job through investment of an additional nearly $400 million in roads and bridges over the next decade.
  • More students are graduating from high school – the best improvement of any state.
  • In 2011, only five percent of low-income kids attended the most highly rated early childhood programs. Today, that number has been increased to 59 percent.
  • A $5.6 million state investment in downtown areas in every county is leading to more than $114 million in private investment through the Downtown Development Districts program.
  • More veterans are finding jobs while fewer are living on the streets – during the past year, 284 homeless veterans were helped to get off the street.
  • Delaware ranks first in helping youth receiving social security disability benefits to successfully transition to employment.
  • Delaware’s air is cleaner – Delaware’s carbon dioxide emissions were reduced 16% from 2009 to 2013 – and recreational and cultural opportunities are more plentiful, from 50 miles of new trails to record investments in libraries and the arts community.
  • Prisons are less crowded – the statewide detention population has dropped 18 percent in two years and coordinated programs are helping to reduce recidivism.
  • Historic steps have been taken toward equality for Delaware’s vibrant LGBT community – legislation was enacted to approve marriage equality, prohibit discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation, and provide transgender Delawareans the same rights to protection from discrimination and violence.

SOTS16Recently, the Governor’s office issued a series of one-page fact sheets that outline progress that has been achieved during the past seven years on a range of areas.  Read those fact sheets HERE.

“Today, the state of our state is stronger than it has been in years.”

Markell urged lawmakers and other leaders to support several program, policy, and legislative initiatives that build upon the state’s progress and meet the shared expectation that more can be done to move the state forward.



Growing Delaware’s economy by increasing access to job training

Last year, Markell announced the Delaware Promise, a partnership among the General Assembly, business community, and Delaware schools and colleges, to help ensure that 65 percent of our workforce will earn a college degree or professional certificate by 2025. Today he celebrated the progress of this initiative and announced its expansion.

“We help grow our economy by improving access to better education and training. Even as employment in our state has reached historic highs, we confront the odd reality that Delaware employers are hiring, but can’t find enough qualified applicants.”

  • Expand the availability of SEED higher education scholarships by expanding their benefits to part-time students and those who must take a break from their studies.
  • Expand the TechHire initiative beyond ZipCode Wilmington and add a new coding program at Delaware Tech, geared toward people who need to work part time while they train
  • Grow the Pathways to Prosperity initiative, which will create training opportunities this fall for 5,000 high school students to receive workplace experience and college credits that position them for careers in key industries. Business partners have agreed to double from 500 to 1000 the number of students who have the opportunity to work directly at a Delaware employer.
  • Increase the number of students studying computer programming to 1,000 by September, up from 80 two years ago.

Building a more affordable and welcoming place to do business

“Our strong workforce is the most important reason employers locate and expand in our state.  But we also know that our employers and entrepreneurs expect Delaware to be an affordable, welcoming place to do business.”

  • Enact legislation that helps Delaware businesses use online platforms to offer a stake in their companies to Delawareans. Much of this investing can be done through what is known as crowdfunding – a way for entrepreneurs to connect with investors.
  • Modernize our tax code to promote job creation through the Delaware Competes Act.

Sustaining responsible state finances

“Because of the work we have done over the last seven years, we are still one of a handful of states with a AAA credit rating. We have reduced headcount in executive branch agencies by nearly 5 percent, saved millions by changing the way we purchase energy, and renegotiated real estate leases. The biggest challenge we face is the sharply accelerating cost of health care.”

  • Build on efforts of the state’s healthcare community to move away from an expensive fee-for-service model and toward a system that emphasizes quality outcomes at an affordable cost.
  • Improve the long-term viability of state employee health plans by: giving employees information and better incentives to choose cost-effective, high quality care, like using urgent care instead of the emergency room or telemedicine instead of an office visit; and creating a new plan for future employees to limit changes for current employees.

Investing in quality education

“We have no better example of how higher expectations – along with significant additional resources, support, and innovation – have resulted in extraordinary progress than in our schools.  Over the past several years, our students, families, teachers, and staff have set and reached loftier goals in almost every possible way. And the more we have asked, the more they have achieved, like record high graduation rates – improving faster than any other state – while earning some of the nation’s best test scores in the early grades.”

  • Better support, retain, and attract high quality teachers by raising starting salaries and introducing opportunities for educators to earn more for taking on leadership responsibilities without leaving the classroom for administrative positions.
  • Provide stipends for educators who aren’t receiving compensation for their National Board Certification.

“As much as any other state, Delaware has committed to our youngest learners.”

  • Provide funding to give more low-income children access to high-quality early learning programs, well-educated teachers, and a healthy start.

Protecting public safety supporting reentry through common-sense criminal justice reforms

“More than 600 inmates are serving mandatory extended sentences because of Delaware’s habitual offender law. Today, a person can receive a mandatory life sentence solely for drug offenses, without any conviction for an act of physical violence. The cost to taxpayers of these automatic sentences and of keeping habitual offenders behind bars for decades is enormous.”

  • Reform sentencing laws to give judges discretion to sentence offenders on a case-by-case basis so that the state can focus limited resources on keeping dangerous offenders off the streets.
  • Amend Delaware law to remove the financial bar to exercising the right to vote. Right now, a person with a felony conviction can vote as soon as his or her sentence is complete, but only if he or she has paid all fines and fees.

Professional Licensing

“One way we must make strides towards a more equal society is by ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to build a better life. Many of our licensing and certification requirements are well-founded, however, some requirements may no longer be necessary and instead prevent many from pursuing professions in which they would thrive, particularly low-income individuals.”

  • Build on recent reforms to barber and cosmetology regulations by instructing executive branch agencies, along with the Chair of the Joint Sunset Committee to conduct a comprehensive analysis of licensing requirements, with input from board representatives and the public.

Increasing access to safe and effective contraception

“Delaware has one of the highest unplanned pregnancy rates in the country – 57 percent. When people become parents accidentally, we know the outcomes for them and their children, may be diminished. There are new methods that are much more effective than the pill – methods preferred by OB-GYNs and endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control – but here in Delaware our healthcare system doesn’t make it easy to choose these new methods.”

  • Launch a partnership with the national nonprofit Upstream USA to train our healthcare providers so that all Delaware women can conveniently access the full range of contraceptive choices at low or no-cost, consistent with federal law, which requires coverage and reimbursement for all contraceptives.

Treating addiction

“We have increased access to substance use treatments by as much as 100 percent, and we’ve made it easier for law enforcement, as well as friends and family, to help victims before it’s too late. These efforts are saving lives. I ask for your continued support in building on our progress.”

  • Fund a team of health care professionals who can serve more than 100 of our highest-need patients to provide the intensive services to end their constant cycle of hospitalization, withdrawal, and treatment.
  • Develop closer coordination between the Department of Health and Social Services and primary care doctors to screen for and identify more cases of substance abuse to reduce overall treatment costs and save more families from the anguish of a long battle with addiction.

The full remarks of Governor Markell’s 2016 State of the State address are posted at:


State of the State Address: Guests of Governor Markell

Dover, DE – Governor Markell delivers his annual State of the State Address today at 2:00 p.m. in Legislative Hall before members of the General Assembly, Cabinet members, and fellow Delawareans.

In addition to looking ahead to priorities for this year, the Governor will reflect on progress the state has made by “expecting more” during challenging times over the past seven years. Our series of one-page fact sheets covering a range of areas can be found here.

Several special guests who represent topics covered in the speech will attend at the invitation of Governor Markell.  These Delawareans serve as examples of those who have secured marketable skills to thrive in the state’s new economy, secured the opportunity for self-sufficiency through state and non-profit services, and represented the best of selfless service to others.  These guests are introduced below.

Members of the media interested in learning more or interviewing these individuals following the Governor’s address should email or Dawn

Dawn Milnamow recently completed a 12-week computer coding course at Zip Code Wilmington through the Delaware TechHire initiative.  Less than six months ago Dawn was struggling to get a full-time job. Last month she was hired by JP Morgan Chase in an information technology position which nearly tripled her annual salary.

-Alex Kotanides with Solar Unlimited, a Lewes-based renewable energy hot water heating system manufacturer that anticipates $1 million in sales to Mexico thanks to the state’s export initiatives.

Liza Bartle with Agilent Technologies represents private sector employers who have joined the Pathways to Prosperity Initiative, which places students with employers to learn valuable job skills that today’s employers need, from manufacturing to computer networking, health care, and culinary arts. Business partners are committing to increase the number of students who gain the opportunity to work directly with employers.

Cheyenne Hinson graduated this past year as a certified nursing assistant through the Generation USA youth employment program, a training program facilitated by the McKinsey Social Initiative that serves unemployed and underemployed youth.  Through this training, Cheyenne has overcome the challenges of unemployment to secure a position in a Wilmington-area healthcare facility, and recently earned a promotion.

Alisson Murillo Navas is among the more than 4,000 students who have received SEED scholarships at Delaware Tech over the past five years.  Alisson, who enrolled at Delaware Tech this past fall as a SEED student majoring in biological sciences, had a successful fall semester but lost her scholarship because she was one credit short of being a full-time student as she tried to juggle her academics with a part-time job.  Alisson remains enrolled in coursework and plans to continue her pre-med education after graduating from Delaware Tech.

Briana Congo participated in Project SEARCH, a workforce development collaboration among state agencies, local public schools, and Christiana Care to prepare people with disabilities for employment.  Briana was placed at Christiana Care as a SEARCH intern, where she received work-based learning experiences that positioned her for employment, and she was subsequently hired by Christiana Care as a Materials Handler. Briana

-During a 24-hour period beginning last Christmas Eve, Newark Police Corporal Marc Difrancesco personally responded to three separate reports of individuals found unresponsive because of an overdose. Through a change in Delaware law that allowed police to carry and administer the overdose-reducing drug naloxone, all three of those individuals were saved.

Chief Warrant Officer Lloyd Massey and Master Sergeant Kevin Reading represent the hundreds of Delaware National Guard servicemembers who have deployed around the world during the past year.  Chief Warrant Officer Massey, a member of the Operational Support Airlift Agency, recently completed a deployment to the Horn of Africa and Master Sergeant Reading was stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Yashika Bailey is an Air Force veteran who had been facing homelessness and unemployment.  She has been able to land back on her feet through housing that she initially received through a local non-profit and an apartment she’s now renting with assistance from a government-sponsored housing program.  Yashika has also secured employment and is serving her state as a member of the Delaware Air National Guard.



Governor Markell Launches Plan to End Veteran Homelessness in Delaware

Photos from the event

Dover, DE – Following through on a charge announced during his State of the State Address in January, Governor Markell today unveiled plans to end veterans’ homelessness in Delaware. Joined by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Regional Administrator Jane Vincent, Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA) Director Anas Ben Addi, Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Rita Landgraf, among others, the Governor signed on to a challenge to end veteran homelessness, and addressed the state’s effort to find homes for all homeless veterans in Delaware by the end of 2015. DSHA and DHSS were tasked with developing the plan, which was presented during today’s event at American Legion Post 2. On any given night, 100 veterans in Delaware are homeless.Veterans

“Given our obligations to our Veterans, nothing should disturb us more than the continued high rate of homelessness among former service members,” said Governor Markell. “An estimated 280 Veterans will experience homelessness in Delaware over the course of 2015. With focused effort, along with collaboration between federal, state and local partners and the community, Delaware can and will be a state where no veteran is homeless.”

Last year, HUD, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the National League of Cities called on mayors across the country to make a commitment to end Veteran homelessness in their cities in 2015. Today, Governor Markell officially announced the Delaware would join that effort statewide.

“Too many Americans who’ve answered the call of duty struggle to readjust to life after military service,” said HUD Regional Administrator Vincent. “This announcement represents an important step in fulfilling a sacred commitment—ensuring that all Veterans have a home in the very nation they served to protect.”

A working group including state and federal agencies, nonprofit providers, and Veterans service agencies has developed a plan to address Delaware’s homeless Veterans. The report, released today, details actions including: identifying Veterans who are currently homeless or at a high risk of homelessness; improving connections and coordination between Veteran-specific and mainstream resources for homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing; and, creating 20 rental assistance vouchers dedicated to Veterans through the State Rental Assistance Program (SRAP), which provides integrated community housing with supportive services.

“Every Veteran should have the opportunity and support to live a full, healthy life in our state,” said Director Ben Addi. “In this plan, we identify strategies to both house Veterans who are homeless in Delaware now, and to ensure that Veterans who may face homelessness in the future are connected to the resources they need quickly and effectively.”

“While working with the Housing Authority to identify Veterans in need and to provide them with homes, we also are prepared to offer wrap-around social services to these men and women who have served our country,” said Secretary Landgraf. “For Veterans in need, a home is the foundation that will help to re-establish them in the community. The social services that DHSS can connect these Veterans to will provide further stability.”Veterans

Today’s announcement featured the story of Gary Dawkins, an Honorably Discharged Veteran who served seven years in the United States Army and became homeless Due to the economy and an unstable employment history. Dawkins found shelter at the Home of the Brave (HOB), became a model resident and assisted other residents with their health and spiritual well-being. He also went to school through the Department of Labor WIA program to get his CDL Truck Endorsement License and became temporarily employed at the Milford Modern Maturity Center through the First State Community Action Senior Employment Program. After being at the HOB for approximately 20 months, Dawkins eventually became eligible for housing through the DSHA Public Housing program for seniors.

“My story is a prime example of how many resources coming together can bring a veteran from homelessness to stable housing,” said Dawkins. “I am glad to see Delaware committing to this challenge and to housing Veterans who are homeless.”

The Plan to End Veteran Homelessness in 2015 is available online.



Sentencing Reform Legislation Passes General Assembly

Wilmington, DE – The Senate today passed legislation restoring judicial discretion by permitting judges to impose concurrent sentences for multiple offenses. The 19-2 vote sends House Bill 312 to the Governor for his signature after the House approved it 34-4 earlier this month.

When signed, the bill will represent the second piece of Governor Markell’s criminal justice agenda – outlined in his State of the State – to become law. He proposed the sentencing reform measure in January as part of his efforts to reduce prison crowding, recognizing that Delaware is the only state that currently forces judges, without exception, to impose consecutive sentences. Representative Stephanie Bolden (D-Wilmington) and Senator Margaret Rose Henry (D- Wilmington East) sponsored the legislation.

“We have an incarceration rate that is higher than the national average in a country whose average is higher than the rest of the world’s, and the enormous expense of our approach hasn’t made us any safer,” said Markell. “I thank Representative Bolden and Senator Henry for their leadership on legislation that recognizes that judges should have appropriate discretion to craft a sentence that is suitable for an individual offender. This is a step toward a better, fairer justice system.”

Last month, the Governor signed another State of the State proposal, House Bill 167, which addressed employment discrimination against ex-offenders who have repaid their debt to society. That law forbids public employers from asking job candidates to check a box on their applications if they have a criminal record.

Governor Markell Proposes “Clean Water for Delaware’s Future” Plan

fDSCF8774Plan will support clean water, drinking water projects that protect public health and the environment, while creating jobs and a stronger economy

Wilmington – Governor Jack Markell today proposed Clean Water for Delaware’s Future a comprehensive plan for protecting public health and cleaning up Delaware’s bays, rivers and streams within a generation, while creating jobs and strengthening Delaware’s economy.

Governor Markell and DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara made the announcement at the DuPont Environmental Education Center overlooking the Christina River, which has some of the highest levels of toxic pollutants in the state. They were joined by state and local elected officials, leaders of the state’s business community and representatives of state and regional environmental organizations.

Clean Water for Delaware’s Future will generate additional funding for wastewater, stormwater and drinking water projects throughout the state. Funds will be used to support projects that will:

  • Remove toxics and restore streams and rivers;
  • Repair and update wastewater and drinking water treatment plants;
  • Modernize stormwater infrastructure in communities to improve flood and storm resilience;
  • Support conservation/agricultural practices that prevent pollutants from reaching surface and ground waters;
  • Protect and restore critical natural resources like wetlands and forests that help purify water and mitigate flooding; and
  • Make important upgrades to industries, which will systematically reduce impacts to water resources.

Most of Delaware’s waters do not meet water quality standards for their designated uses – drinking, swimming and supporting fish and other aquatic life. The state’s list of impaired waters includes 377 bodies of water that suffer from excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), low dissolved oxygen, toxics, and bacteria. Extensive analysis of chemical contaminants in fish has led to advisories that fish are unsafe to eat in more than 30 waterways statewide.

Over the next five years, more than $500 million in wastewater facility upgrades are needed statewide. These include priority projects in all three counties –including underserved communities needing wastewater and drinking water improvements and several at-risk systems currently operated by homeowners associations in Sussex County. More than $150 million in stormwater upgrades are needed across the state, in addition to more than $75 million for removing toxics and more than $75 million in upgrades at industrial facilities.

The existing Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loan programs currently have about $30 million annually available to fund wastewater and drinking water projects – not nearly enough to finance many of the critical projects.

Clean Water for Delaware’s Future will generate $30 million annually from a household clean water fee of less than $1 a week and a proportionate fee for larger users. The fee, which will be indexed to inflation and collected through county property taxes, will leverage more than $120 million in total financing annually for clean water investments and support more than 1,000 jobs per year in science, engineering and construction.

Revenues from the Clean Water for Delaware’s Future fee, along with clean water/drinking water federal revolving fund capitalization grants, other state funds, other federal grants and funding from private foundations, are estimated to be allocated as follows:

  • Wastewater/Drinking Water Upgrades: 30%;
  • Stormwater Upgrades: 30%;
  • Conservation/Agriculture Projects: 15%;
  • Toxics Removal/Site Cleanup/Stream Restoration: 20%; and
  • Industrial Upgrades: 5%.

The Clean Water for Delaware’s Future Fund will help finance these projects through a combination of low or no-interest loans, affordability grants, credit enhancements, matches for federal grants, and leveraged private financing, all of which will reduce the cost of constructing clean water projects for municipalities and other entities.

Statements from the Governor, Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and others supporting the plan

Governor Jack Markell said: “Clean water is essential for a healthy and prosperous Delaware. We have made great strides reducing air pollution and cleaning up brownfield sites, yet nearly every waterway in Delaware, other than our beaches, remains unsafe for swimming and fishing and nearly every community is struggling with more frequent flooding and storms. Clean Water for Delaware’s Future will invest in projects that improve water quality, improve community resiliency, protect our health and safety, support our multi-billion dollar tourism and agriculture industries, bolster the economic revitalization of our cities and towns, and increase property values—all while creating thousands of jobs for years to come.”

DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara said: “Over the past forty years, Delaware has made some progress in improving water quality of our streams, rivers, and bays by upgrading some wastewater plants, expanding stormwater infrastructure, and implementing agricultural practices that reduce pollution. But, challenges persist and if we continue on our current path, clean water is still many decades away. Clean Water for Delaware’s Future is a comprehensive approach to cleaning up our waterways within a generation by accelerating investments that will reduce pollution and improve the resiliency of Delaware’s communities.”   

Senator Robert Marshall (D- Wilmington West) said: “I commend the Governor for his initiative.  His ideas about the need to clean up our waterways are much needed.  The best part from my perspective is the new construction jobs that these proposals would create for those who have been hardest hit by the economic meltdown.  I hope we can blend these proposals with the Governor’s comments in his State of the State message, with the Blue Collar Task Force’s mission of creating jobs through public works projects, and with my own legislation, S. B. 132, that would establish a Delaware Works Trust Fund for capital projects.  If we can combine the need for environmental cleanup with the need to create new jobs now for those who need them most, it’s a win-win for all the citizens of our state.”

Senator Karen Peterson (D-Stanton) said: “Ever since the Glenville flood, I’ve been trying to find a way to find funding to address the issue of flooding in our communities, much of which is caused by the creeks and streams that have been neglected because there is no fund to maintain them.  While this proposal focuses primarily on cleaning up our water it also provides for flood mitigation funding which is long overdue. This is a huge step in the right direction and certainly an answer to my prayers.”

Wilmington City Councilwoman Hanifa Shabazz said: “It’s hard to go back to my constituents and say, ‘Yes, we do have an understanding of what needs to be done, but it’s going to take five to seven years.’ I’m real excited about this innovative tool that’s going to help us get this done much quicker to bring a much better quality of life for our residents in South Wilmington.”

Dover City Council President David Bonar said: “My wife and I kayak in all the State Parks, yet we don’t dare swim in Trap Pond because of the nutrient pollutions. You can no longer swim safely in Silver Lake. We have a serious stormwater drainage issue in the City of Dover. We need to correct these things.  We need to correct them now.”