Markell sets agenda for busy three years

Airport, Route 1 initiative keys to growth in Cape Region
Gov. Jack Markell, left, introduces new Deputy Chief of Staff James Collins, an Ohio native who met his wife while he was stationed at Dover Air Force Base. BY KARA NUZBACK
January 10, 2014

Transportation initiatives in Sussex County will lower unemployment and improve infrastructure, says Gov. Jack Markell.

A possible new face on the healthcare system in also on the agenda in Delaware in the next three years, if Markell’s plans fall into place.

Addressing more than 100 people attended a meeting of Sussex County Association of Towns Jan. 8 at Baywood Greens in Long Neck, Markell discussed infrastructure, judicial nominations and healthcare in the state.

The governor said he has three years left.  “We’re going to do everything we can to advance this state over the next few years,” he said.

In the coming session he aims to further reduce unemployment rates and set the stage for major infrastructure projects in Sussex County.  Extending the airport runway in Georgetown and fixing transportation issues along Route 1 are major planned improvements, he said.

The projects are expensive, but both will create jobs and lead to future prosperity in the region, Markell said.

He said his budget proposal, due later this month, would offer greater detail.  “By the end of January, you’ll know my whole plan on everything,” he said.

When asked about a 40 percent proposed increase in workers’ compensation rates, Markell said the increase has not yet been approved.  The Workers’ Compensation Task Force, led by Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, would continue to manage workers’ compensation insurance costs, he said.  “The work of that group is not done,” he said.

Earlier on Jan. 8, Markell announced his nomination for Chancellor Leo Strine to take over as chief justice of Delaware Supreme Court when current Chief Justice Myron Steele steps down. Attorney and Sussex County Clerk of Peace John Brady said Markell is likely to appoint 80 percent of the judicial seats in the state before his term of office ends.

Brady asked Markell his philosophy for choosing the right candidate for a judgeship.

Markell said, “My philosophy is pretty simple.”  He said he looks for intellect, good temperament and someone who will serve as a good representative for Delaware.

Markell also said the best candidates are selected before he interviews them.  Unlike other states, where judges are elected, in Delaware, vacancies are advertised, and interested judges must apply to the Judicial Nominating Commission.

Once the commission interviews candidates, Markell said, he conducts a final interview before selecting a nominee.

Markell said Delaware’s courts are some of the best in the country.  It’s important that state courts are well regarded in the business community, he said, because the state generates significant revenue from corporate franchise tax fees.

The governor was also asked how the Affordable Care Act has affected Delaware.

“Obviously, incredibly frustrating,” Markell said.  He noted wait times of nearly a month for residents to sign up for coverage.

“I think it’s great that more people are getting access,” he said.  The cost of healthcare, however, might not be lower for everyone, as was initially promised by the federal government, he said.

Markell said he and officials from several other states have been working on an initiative over the last 10 months that would reform the way the country pays for healthcare.

The current system is not healthcare; it is sick care, Markell said.  “Providers get paid based on how many procedures they do,” he said.  “It’s not sustainable.”

The healthcare system won’t pay $200 to repair an elderly woman’s air-conditioner, he said.  But if the woman has a heat stroke, the system pays thousands for an ambulance and hospital stay.  “We have to think differently,” he said.

Speaking to a room full of elected officials, Markell said they were blessed to serve.  “It’s hard work,” he said.  “I will look back on this time and say, ‘This is the greatest gift anyone could give.’”

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