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Carney optimistic on state's finances

Tells Sussex County leaders to keep working together
January 28, 2020

Wearing a purple tie in support of the Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings NFL playoff hopes, Gov. John Carney shared his hopes for Delaware in 2020 during a Sussex County Association of Towns meeting Jan. 8.

Building on his past budget blueprint designed to regulate spending and put reserves aside for future economic downturns, Carney said, his administration will continue to limit spending so there is more money to sock away in reserves for 2020 – a sunnier projection compared to the season-ending losses by his NFL picks.

In 2018, Carney signed an executive order setting a benchmark index for state spending that takes into count personal income growth, state population growth and other revenue growth or decline. Carney signed the executive order after the General Assembly failed to pass his budget-smoothing plan that would have made the plan a Constitutional amendment. The bill needed passage by two-thirds vote by two consecutive General Assemblies in order to be added to the Constitution.

Still, Carney said, his budget-smoothing process coupled with a strong economy, which added about 20,000 more jobs this year, has left Delaware in strong financial health. He said the state has a $200 million surplus and $125 million in revenues that can be tapped if needed in addition to a $250 million rainy day fund – a reserve set up for extreme financial circumstances that requires a three-fifths majority vote by the General Assembly in order to use the money.

“We'll be ready for the next downturn when it comes,” he said.

Speaking to more than 100 town leaders and administrators, Carney said it is important for local leaders and state leaders to work together. Downtown development partnerships have provided incentive grants for future projects. “We'll continue to fund it, and it's already leveraged almost half a billion dollars,” he said. “It's made a real difference in cities and towns across our state.”

In Sussex County, Carney said, farmland preservation remains a priority, and a six-year transportation plan is still on track to make $1.25 billion in road improvements.

“The bad news is you're going to see more orange cones out there quite a bit,” he said.

Taking a few questions at the end of his presentation, Carney said he has received feedback from coastal area residents concerned about a proposed wind farm off the Delaware coast.

“This is not an initiative of Delaware, and that's where the complication is,” he said.

Carney said he is still learning the particulars of the project, but on the positive side Delaware stands to gain $18 million to improve its Fenwick Island State Park.

“We do need to have more renewable energy kinds of projects if we are going to address climate change and sea level rise,” Carney said.