Q&A Survey: Candidates for governor address the issues

Delaware Governor

In the lead-up to Tuesday’s election, the Delaware State News has featured questionnaires from various candidates.

Visit Vote 2016 for more.

John Carney, Democrat

Age: 60

Occupation: U.S. representative

Family: Wife Tracey Quillen Carney, sons Sam Carney and Jim Carney

vote-logo-2016Elective experience: U.S. representative (2011-present), lieutenant governor (2001-2008)

Colin Bonini, Republican

Age: 51

Occupation: State senator/business owner

Family: Wife Melissa

Elective experience: State senator

Sean L. Goward, Libertarian

Age: 37

Occupation: Retired Air Force, signalman with Norfolk Southern

John Carney

John Carney

Family: Married, five children

Elective experience: I have zero experience in backroom dealing, political shenaniganry or putting everyone but the constituent first.

Andrew Groff, Green

Editor’s note: Andrew Groff did not complete the Delaware State News survey.

1. What would be your top priority in this office?

Carney: The security of every Delaware family depends on good-paying jobs. Delaware’s economic landscape has changed drastically over the last decade, with key manufacturers leaving our state and the DuPont merger with Dow shaking the very identity of Delaware’s economy. Delawareans are right to worry about our economy in transition. But that transition also makes us focus on our strengths, and where we need to improve, as we build the Delaware economy of the future. Delaware’s next governor needs to lead our state through a transition to an innovation economy that will provide Delawareans with well-paying middle class jobs of the future. At the same time, we need to create more opportunities for Delaware’s blue-collar workforce by repurposing industrial sites and retraining workers. We also need to strengthen our existing tourism and agriculture industries.

Colin Bonini

Colin Bonini

Bonini: Unquestionably rebuilding Delaware’s economy and bringing good jobs back to the First State. Delaware’s economy is suffering under 24 years of one-party rule: Delawareans make almost $12,000 less per household than they did in 1999. One in six Delawareans are on food stamps, one in four are on Medicaid and one in five children in Delaware live in poverty. Delaware must change course.

Goward: My number one priority would be returning transparency and accountability to state government. The sole responsibilities of any government are defending life, liberty and property, and Delaware is consistently failing this mandate. Backroom deals are made on a daily basis across the spectrum of state government, and until the people of Delaware are aware of what is being done in their name, with their resources, we cannot address the issues of fraud, waste and abuse, or the abuse of civil liberties perpetuated by the state.

2. If you could change one state policy or law, what would it be?

Sean L. Goward

Sean L. Goward

Carney: The state budget has to be changed because it’s out of balance. It has structural problems — spending in certain areas has outpaced the state revenues that support them. We need a fiscal reset to establish budget and policy priorities that would lead to the reduction of spending and resetting the revenue framework to meet the services and priorities that people want to see.

Bonini: Remove or reduce the many job-killing policies and regulations enforced by our state government.

Goward: I would put a much higher burden on state officials for waiving FOIA requirements. Our current administration has repeatedly stated that sunshine is the best disinfectant while using every means possible to keep government business in the shadows. Cooperative efforts between the state and the U.S. Department of Education, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice have eroded citizens’ trust in almost every facet of government, and the first step in addressing any problems in the state is bringing them to the light of day and public scrutiny.

Andrew Groff

Andrew Groff

3. What is the top issue facing the state?

Carney: We need to improve Delaware’s education system so our teachers and students have the resources they need to ensure students are prepared for a job in the new economy. The recently passed federal education law gives us an opportunity to provide more flexibility to schools and teachers so they’re better able to make our young people college- and career-ready. In order for Wilmington, the commercial center of our state, to be successful, we need to stop the violence that plagues far too many neighborhoods in our city. This will take an effort that combines a smarter, and more community-based law enforcement approach with a better strategy for rehabilitating offenders. Even more important is preventing our young people from turning to a life of crime in the first place by providing them with an education that will enable them to be successful.

Bonini: The economy and job creation.

Goward: Government influence in the economy by excessive and unequitable taxation, overregulation and permitting processes have created barriers for entry into the market and denied those most in need of employment the opportunity to work to support themselves and their families.

4. Do you support raising the minimum wage?

Carney: I prefer the minimum wage be established at the federal level in order to keep an even playing field among the states. However, I support reasonable increases at the state level as long as we don’t get too far out of line compared with other states. I have supported federal legislation to raise the minimum wage to $10.10. I think that is a reasonable next step, but again, I prefer that next step to be taken at the federal level so Delaware doesn’t find itself at a competitive disadvantage with other states. In general, I believe that a strong minimum wage is an important part of a broader plan to help workers struggling to make ends meet.

Bonini: No. Raising the minimum wage will hurt small business in Delaware. Many businesses are barely holding on and increasing their labor costs will make it very difficult to stay in business. Raising the minimum wage will cost jobs.

Goward: I don’t support government intrusions into the market. Raising the minimum wage creates unnecessary competition among entry level workers for a smaller pool of available jobs. The only way I would consider a minimum wage hike would be if there was a progressive increase by age to mitigate the impact on high school and college students as well as our handicapped citizens.

5. Would you sign legislation reinstating the death penalty?

Carney: As a former member of the Board of Pardons, I have had more occasion to contemplate the death penalty than most. Over the last several years, after a lot of study and reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a punishment that is too flawed for it to be considered fair or just. It has also proven to be very expensive, and has not proven to be a serious deterrent to crime. I support the Supreme Court’s recent decision to rule Delaware’s death penalty statute unconstitutional. I think the General Assembly should let the Supreme Court’s ruling stand.

Bonini: Yes. I believe the death penalty is appropriate in certain circumstances and also can act as a deterrent. I am very concerned that many of Delaware’s politicians are more concerned about the welfare of perpetrators and less concerned about victims. Delaware’s criminal justice system needs to be focused on the needs of victims, not criminals.

Goward: I would not support a bill to reinstate the death penalty. While we need to transition from a punitive form of criminal justice to restorative justice, the exoneration rate of death row inmates, problems in funding and running our forensic evidence lab and a cost burden on the state for litigating appeals that outweigh the costs of lifetime incarceration do not support reinstating the death penalty.

6. Should the state make changes to its laws on marijuana?

Carney: I support Delaware’s decriminalization statute and believe we should wait to see how implementation of that law plays out before considering changes to it. I do not support legalization of recreational marijuana.

Bonini: We have already decriminalized possession of marijuana to the point where it is basically legal. I believe we should do it right and go with full legalization to regulate it so we can keep it out of the hands of minors, identify those with addiction problems and help drive drug dealers out of business.

Goward: We should immediately legalize it and complete a comprehensive review of marijuana convictions for dismissal.

7. Should the state lower the tax rates on the casinos, do nothing or take some other step to provide relief?

Carney: The three racetracks in the state are agents of the state — the state’s partners. It’s important for the state that the casinos be successful. There needs to be a balance struck so the casino enterprises can make the necessary investments in their facilities to maximize revenue for both the states and the casinos.

Bonini: Our casinos are taxed at the highest rate in the country which makes them uncompetitive compared to surrounding states. I believe we should revert the tax rate on casinos back to the level prior to the recent increases.

Goward: I support providing aid in the form of reducing the government burden on all businesses and individuals. Past articles have called state aid to casinos a “bailout,” but if state Sen. Brian Bushweller is correct in his assertion that our casinos pay a near 40 percent gross receipts tax on top of their corporate taxes, that aid is a tax refund, not a bailout.

8. What changes would you make to the Department of Education?

Carney: Change has to start at the top. The Delaware Department of Education should be a support system for teachers and administrators. Too often, it acts as an enforcement agency focused on implementing reforms. Teachers and principals are in the best position to understand what their students need. DOE should be a resource that helps educators implement their ideas and move students along the path to success. I will reorient the Department of Education from a focus on monitoring and mandates to a focus on collaboration and support for districts. I will create resource centers at DOE to ensure that teachers and curriculum directors have access to experts with deep knowledge in critical areas who can provide advice and guidance and help share best practices across district lines.

Bonini: The resources, power and accountability in our public schools needs to be focused on the local level. I firmly believe if we can push our resources to the school-building level along with the decision making power and accountability, we will see dramatic increases in performance. Parents, teachers and principals should be empowered to reform our schools, not large state or federal bureaucracies. I will change the Department of Education into an Education Support Agency.

Goward: I would stop listening to the U.S. DOE and refocus the Delaware DOE on providing assistance and support to local districts rather than mandating reforms from the top down. Parents and educators are in the best position to assess the needs of their students and provide adequate education services.

9. Does the state spend too much, too little or the right amount?

Carney: Several recent studies indicate that our state budget growth cannot be sustained. We need to get serious about fixing the problem before it gets even worse. I think we need a spending and revenue “reset” that starts with looking at how we spend the taxpayers’ money.
Bonini: Too much. We are one of the most expensive, per capita, state governments in the country. Our government is too big, too expensive and too intrusive and it’s a significant drag on our economy.

Goward: Our state spends like a Kardashian on a minimum wage budget and our taxpayers are on the hook for the credit card bills.

10. What should be done, if anything, to increase revenue for the state or cut spending?

Carney: We need a fiscal reset to evaluate our spending and revenue and determine the best structure for our state. If Delawareans want government to continue to provide the services it does, we need to implement an intensive, ongoing, cabinet-level focus on operational efficiency to reduce spending wherever possible. To succeed, our government efficiency efforts need to identify longer term solutions that create lasting results that can effectively “bend” government cost curves in areas such as health care, corrections, education and state personnel. We can’t rely on “quick fix” gimmicks. Such efforts need to be institutionalized across all levels of state government and focused not on issuing a press release, but on the implementation of real reforms that bring sustainable changes, and the creation of a culture of continuous improvement resulting in better service at less cost to taxpayers. On the revenue side, like many other states, Delaware’s revenue portfolio is struggling to grow fast enough to keep pace with the increased cost of government, a trend that will continue, and could accelerate as our population continues to grow and get older. Last year, a bipartisan report on state revenues said we need to look at ways to broaden our tax base so that revenues grow more with the economy. I agree with that approach. The best way to address a budget deficit is to grow out of it. Whatever the structure of the revenue fix it, it has to be pro-growth, to stimulate economic growth, which will enable the state to collect more revenue. Our budget problems are serious. The spending and revenue reset I describe will not be easy, and it will require the bipartisan support of the legislature to succeed, but it must be the top priority of my first year in office.

Bonini: Reduce spending. I believe if we offer an early-retirement incentive to state employees and reform Medicaid, we can solve our budget issues. We should NOT raise taxes. Our anemic economy will not respond well to even higher government taking.

Goward: While cannabis legalization would create a statewide market and a revenue stream for the state, we need to go through each department, eliminate waste, streamline processes and eliminate those functions that don’t serve the purpose of protecting life, liberty and property.

11. Do changes need to be made in the state’s employee health care structure?

Carney: State employee benefit costs, particularly health care costs, are one of the biggest drivers of state spending. We need to address this growing area of the budget. An important part of the fiscal reset will be looking at these costs and how to keep them under control. As an employer, the state is “self-insured” when it comes to health care, meaning that the state pays the bills. But it doesn’t do a good job of managing those expenses. So the first thing that has to be done is that the state needs to do a better of managing the way it spends money, in part by incentivizing the efficient use of health care providers by state employees by encouraging healthy lifestyles and prevention, and by concentrating on reducing the high cost of chronic disease through better chronic disease management.

Bonini: Yes. The current spending trajectory is simply unsustainable. We must look at both the premium and expenditure sides of the issue. I believe we can still offer very good benefits to our state employees in the future, but we have to make some tough decisions now to avoid busting our budget.

Goward: There is only so much that can be done to mitigate the damage done by the “Affordable” Care Act, but we can help everyone in Delaware by taking steps to increase competition to raise quality and reduce costs including cross state insurance competition, reduction in government induced overhead to providers and shifting primary and preventative care out of insurance coverage to reduce deductible and premium costs.

12. What should be done to impact the state’s heroin crisis?

Carney: This is a public health crisis and to beat it, we need to address issues related to addiction, the availability of opioids and the lack of good treatment options in Delaware. We need all the relevant entities working together — from state government to the medical community to law enforcement to non-profit service providers. We need to support efforts like Dover Police Department’s ‘Angel’ program, which focus on treating those suffering from addiction, rather than punishing them. Delaware’s National Guard also runs a Counterdrug Task Force, which assists law enforcement efforts to catch drug traffickers. As governor, I would continue listening to the families of those affected and those responsible for treating them to determine what additional treatment options our state needs to stem this epidemic.

Bonini: More rehabilitation options along with greater education to keep people from starting down the path of addiction. Prosperity helps solve so many problems. If more Delaware families were secure in their economic outlook, I know we would have fewer families facing addiction.

Goward: We need to take a multifaceted approach. Cannabinoids have been shown to reduce the side effects of opioid withdrawal creating a more suitable means for people to get clean and marijuana legalization would allow individuals access to cannabis to supplement other treatment resources. Reducing penalties for use and increasing available social services, like Dover has done with their Angel Program, will allow people to get help through municipal resources and can be done without touching the penalties associated with production and distribution of opioids. We need to strengthen bystander protections so that those who witness an overdose, regardless of their sobriety, won’t be punished for seeking medical assistance on others behalf. If we want to make progress though, we need to look outside the constraints of our system of jurisprudence to meet a critical social need.

13. How can the state best continue to fund road and bridge projects?

Carney: We need a complete fiscal review and a spending and revenue reset, which would determine the right mix of user fees and other taxes to support the services that people in Delaware demand. I agree that we need to fix our state’s infrastructure and come up with a more sustainable funding stream for it. I want to ensure that whatever system we put in place is fair and does not unduly burden those struggling to make ends meet.

Bonini: Grow the economy by red passing right-to-work, reducing regulations, reigning in state spending and lowering utility costs. Delaware does not have a revenue problem. If we grow our economy by pursuing pro-opportunity policies like the ones I am proposing, we will have plenty of resources available for infrastructure costs.

Goward: I would start by localizing the processes for road and bridge maintenance projects. Allowing counties and municipalities to draft contracts that meet safety requirements and the needs of their citizens will allow more market competition, reduce costs and improve quality.

14. Anything else?

Carney: I’m running for governor because I want every Delawarean to succeed here, whether you’re the line worker who lost a job in manufacturing or his daughter trying to find her way in an economy that’s changing right before our eyes. This won’t be easy, of course. We will make mistakes along the way. It will mean tough choices. But it will also mean listening to you. And it will mean working as hard as I can, day and night, for you. I’ll never forget who I work for. And I’ll always tell it like it is. You can trust me to make the hard decisions to meet our state’s serious challenges.

Bonini: Delaware must change course. The choice in this election is quite clear and stark. If you like the way things are going and want more of the same, you should vote for my opponent. However, if you think Delaware needs to change direction and bring real reform to our state government, then I am kindly asking for your vote. More of the same vs. change … it’s that simple.

Goward: No.

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