Thursday, January 20, 2011

State of the State

Governor Jack Markell gave the State of the State speech today before a joint session of the Delaware House and Senate. The Senate chamber and balcony were packed to hear the speech that sets policy direction for the coming year.

Educators, state workers, and troopers all received praise. This might come as a surprise to the News Journal which has seemed to be hoping for, if not actually attempting to provoke, a fight between the public employee unions and the Governor.

The Governor stated his concerns with escalating health and pension costs and then added: "So the proper course is to work together with our state and public education employees to find the best and fairest ways to achieve near and long-term savings."

"We have begun a dialogue with representatives of the major state and public education union leaderships and leaders from within the General Assembly. I am open to any and all good ideas. But we must secure the necessary savings during this session of the General Assembly , because the cost of delay is just unacceptable."

This section of the speech refers to the fact that representatives from DSEA, AFSCME, and DSTA (troopers) will be meeting with members of the Governor's staff, the Office of Management and Budget, and with a few members of the General Assembly to examine health and pension issues. The model for problem solving is similar to that used several years ago to bring down costs associated with Workers Compensation in Delaware.

While public employees continue to have challenging times, there were indications in the State of the State, that the bad economy will cause hardship for others as well. Medicaid, the source of health care for the poor, seems almost certainly slated for cuts. Additionally, Grant-in-Aid which refers to a whole category of funding for charitable and service organizations may continue to see dwindling funds.

Next Thursday, January 27th, the Governor will release his recommended budget and we will get details around the direction set today.

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