So You Want to be Governor
Increasing expenses, decreasing revenues, disappearing jobs, sprawl, charter vs. public schools—Delaware’s next chief executive faces a long, tough road. (And we don’t mean I-95.) Which issues must our next governor tackle first? Where will the money come from? Read on.
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Election Day approaches, and longtime political activist and pundit James Soles would like Delaware’s gubernatorial candidates to put money where their mouths are.
The men who would be governor have spent hundreds of hours and millions of dollars touting their plans for everything from alternative energy to prison health care. What they don’t say, Soles points out, is where the money needed to pay for those nifty ideas will come from.
“We need to ask them, What are their revenue enhancements?” Soles says. “It would be a good exercise for the two candidates to take the budget crisis and tell us what they would have done if we didn’t get that $63 million at the last minute. Give us some hard facts.”
State lawmakers spent the final months of last session cutting programs and services while deciding which taxes to increase, not only to balance the state’s fiscal 2009 budget, but also to deal with a $136 million hole in the ’08 operating budget.
A surprise 11th-hour windfall of $63 million (a corporate tax payment) helped ease some pain, but many legislators emerged from the session saying the budget process was the most difficult they had faced in years.
With the national and state economies continuing to slump, the new governor, lawmakers and budget writers may find themselves back in the same leaky boat.
“It’s like an analogy of a family,” says House Majority Leader Richard Cathcart. “They either have to cut the budget or go out and find a part-time job.”
Where will the money come from? What programs and services will get the ax? Those will be the $3 billion questions when our 73rd governor is sworn in January 20.
The swearing likely won’t end there, though, as the state’s new executive officer and legislature consider everything from revenue enhancements to jobs, education, crime, the environment and (insert your pet issue here).
The economy, however, may wind up getting the most attention. Pete Ross, who served as state budget director under governors Tom Carper and Ruth Ann Minner, says tight budgets require tough decisions. For example, he says a new facility to replace the aging Delaware Psychiatric Center would cost $100 million. “That’s two or three elementary school buildings. How do you choose between the two?”
“The candidates have a long list of things they want to do, but we know they’re not going to live long enough to do them,” Soles says. “It comes down to priorities. In a sea of suggestions, what becomes most important?”
Page 2: Economic Development and Jobs