Gov. Jack Markell proposed better compensation for teachers, gun control measures aimed at keeping schools safer, improved school counseling and more cops on the streets in his State of the State address before a joint session of the Delaware General Assembly Thursday.
Markell also vaguely alluded to what was rumored to be one of his top legislative priorities for the 147th legislative session, namely that of gay marriage. As he summed up his vision for the First State, he spoke of a Delaware "that protects the rights of all its citizens, no matter whom they love."
But, Markell also indicated that sunset provisions placed into the last state tax increases were not on the table.
"We will continue to find savings wherever they may be, but there are things that we won't do, if it means compromising public safety or turning our backs on our most vulnerable citizens," Markell said. "And while we want to keep taxes low — and they are attractive in Delaware — we should not shortchange our children and their future to pay for unaffordable tax cuts today."
Members of the Republican caucus were disappointed to hear that tax cuts were not an option, including Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle (R-Brandywine Hundred) and State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman (R-Clayton).
"They were called unaffordable tax increases so I'm not sure there are unaffordable tax cuts," Lavelle said. "But, he's made it clear to anyone that was listening that sunsets are not going to come off the budget."
But State Rep. Darryl Scott (D-Dover) said asking for things like additional dollars for police and teachers were good proposals by the governor.
"I haven't given up hope that there may be an opportunity for some of the tax cuts to sunset," he said. "If this year doesn't present that opportunity, it doesn't mean that we can't make progress on that in subsequent years."
Among other priorities for the future, Markell said Delaware had to strengthen its teacher compensation system, particularly starting teacher salary, in order to deal with the fact that it was easy to lose quality teachers across the Pennsylvania and New Jersey borders.
Markell also summarized the state funding that went toward new training for schools in Kent and Sussex counties to help them deal with the rash of suicides that occurred in 2012.
With regard to safety, Markell said Delaware State Police, New Castle County Police and Wilmington Police had worked jointly to reduce violent crime in the city after he authorized six new state troopers to focus on drugs and gangs.
As he summed up his State of the State, Markell reiterated that he, Lt. Gov. Matt Denn and Attorney General Beau Biden were working on gun control legislation that would respect the Second Amendment.