Guest view: Governor fails to achieve his own vision for Delaware

By Charlie Copeland, director, Caesar Rodney Institute Center for Analysis of Delaware’s Economy & Government Spending. Copeland is a former state legislator.

 True leadership is more than creating a list; it is expending the political capital necessary to achieve success. Governor Carney is a nice guy, but despite receiving billions of dollars in federal government funds, his administration has failed to advance his vision. On Thursday, January 26th, Governor John Carney released the 7th Budget proposal of his administration. Over his tenure, Governor Carney laid out a consistent “vision” of what he wanted to accomplish. The chart below came from the January 2019 & 2020 overviews when he was most specific.
While the “Carney Covid Clampdown” via repeated Executive Emergency Orders (Number 11 was issued this month!) was obviously disruptive, he continues to tout his initial vision using more generic terms like “Strengthening our economy,” “Expanding Opportunity,” and “Supporting Families and workforce.” As you will see in the specific sections below, Governor Carney has failed to achieve any part of his “vision,” which is a tragedy for the State.

 CARNEY VISION POINT 1: Investing in the new economy, new ‘old’ jobs, and small businesses According to the Delaware Department of Labor, at the end of December 2022, Delaware had over 8,000 fewer jobs than it had in March of 2020 when the “Carney Covid Clampdown” began with the first Emergency Declaration (We’re now up to 11, and still going). Plus, Delaware’s workforce participation rate is the lowest in history – meaning thousands of extra work-capable neighbors are jobless. The Governor has touted certain research jobs at the Star Campus at the University of Delaware, but he fails to mention that these same jobs used to exist at the Dupont Experimental Station, so they are not an addition to the state. Lastly, New Castle County’s economy remains smaller today than 20 years ago. 

 CARNEY VISION POINT 2:  Giving all Delaware children an equal opportunity to succeed so that… My CRI colleague, Dr. Tanya Hettler, Ph.D., has written extensively about Delaware’s nation-trailing test scores. To quote from Dr. Hettler: “In 2022, Delaware tied for the worst educational performance out of all 50 states when considering Delaware’s rankings in both math and reading for the 4th and 8th grades. … Delaware students’ test scores are tied with West Virginia and Oklahoma for dead last. It really can’t get any worse.” While Delaware’s national educational ranking has been falling, the Carney administration continues to hide these results from Delaware parents. Fortunately, CRI has recently done the Governor’s job and posted school-level educational results on our website. 

CARNEY VISION POINT 3: Safe and Secure Communities with improved Quality of Life… There has been no reduction of violence in our streets. (Editor’s note: A state report, while cautioning that comparisons may be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, showed an overall decrease. A larger decrease took place in Wilmington.
In addition, because of the open southern border, Fentanyl has flooded into Delaware. Another CRI colleague, Dr. Chris Casscells, M.D., has reported that for 2021 and 2022, Fentanyl overdose deaths DOUBLED COVID-19 deaths – and according to the Delaware Department of Health and Human Services: “The [target] benchmark [for opioid deaths] for 2020 was to reduce the mortality rate to 15.5 deaths per 100,000. The [actual] 2020 result: 43.9 deaths per 100,000.” That is a BIG miss.
CARNEY VISION POINT 4:  Improving Quality and Containing Costs of Healthcare for All Delawareans… From 2018 through 2022, Delaware had only one health insurance provider. With a monopoly in the State, there has been no reduction in health insurance costs. To add insult to injury, in both 2021 and 2022, Delaware was the only State in the Country with only one insurance provider. Furthermore, ChristianaCare is a well-regarded hospital, but the State continues to restrict competition for healthcare services through an antiquated law called “Certificate of Need” (aka Delaware’s Certificate of Public Review). Much work still needs to be done here.
 (Editor’s note: Two insurance providers did join the state’s Marketplace program and multiple companies offer health insurance to employers)

CARNEY VISION POINT 5: Making State Government More Efficient and Effective With great fanfare, the Governor has touted his “Government Efficiency and Accountability Review (GEAR) Board.” The most recent report from the Board can be found HERE. The report is long in words but short on measurable results. Words like “reviewing” and “reimagining” are NOT achievements. If the Governor was really achieving efficiencies, then he should announce a 5% reduction in state employees through attrition over the next two years. A more efficient government should not need as many staff.  

CONCLUSION Governor Carney came into office in 2017, facing a $400 million deficit following Governor Markell’s big spending years in office. Governor Carney vowed to smooth spending and has succeeded in this effort. However, he has failed to achieve the “vision” he has been promoting for the last six years, which is a real tragedy.