Gubernatorial candidates disagree on budget approach

WILMINGTON — Democratic congressman John Carney and Republican state Sen. Colin Bonini agreed in a gubernatorial debate Friday that Delaware faces significant budget challenges, but they disagree on the approach to a solution.

Carney said the next governor needs to direct a comprehensive review of both state spending and revenue and come up with a “complete budget reset” that includes “a revenue mix that’s pro-growth.” He did not rule out raising taxes.

“I think that’s the wrong question,” Carney said when asked where he would cut spending. “We also have a revenue problem, that’s been coming for a long time.”

Carney noted in particular that the state has become too reliant on abandoned property collections, which is one of the state’s largest revenue sources but has also been the subject of lawsuits by companies incorporated in Delaware, as well as other states who complain that Delaware is seizing abandoned property that should go to them.

vote-logo-2016Bonini agreed that Delaware has become dangerously reliant on abandoned property, but he maintains that Delaware has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

“I think the solution needs to be almost exclusively, or exclusively, on the spending side. I don’t think we need to be raising taxes.”

Carney and Bonini agreed, however, that escalating costs for state employee health care and Medicaid, two of the biggest expenditure drivers, are growing at an unsustainable rate and need to be addressed.

They also agreed that job creation needs to be a priority for the next governor.

“I think state government needs to get out of the way and let our businesses grow,” said Bonini, who called for regulatory reform, the creation of enterprise zones, and reducing high utility rates in an effort to attract manufacturers.

John Carney

John Carney

Carney and Bonini also said improving public education is critical, particularly for disadvantage children in Wilmington, and that reforms should be driven at the local level, with districts and schools given more flexibility. After years of experimenting with programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, Carney said Delaware needs to “pick a strategy and stick with it.”

They also agreed that violence in Wilmington, dubbed “Murder Town USA” in a 2014 Newsweek article, is at an unacceptable level and has become an obstacle to helping strengthen families and communities and to attracting business.

Carney called for a community policing model that works and more cooperation among city, county and state law enforcement agencies.

Colin Bonini

Colin Bonini

Bonini said he would do “whatever is necessary” to stem the violence in Wilmington, including combining police forces, establishing substations in high-risk communities, creating a state police presence, and not worrying about whether state intervention offends city officials.

“If there is a greater failure of the political class in Delaware than the violence in Wilmington, I’d like to know what it is,” he said.

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