In the first State of the State address of her second term, Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner endorsed initiatives for education, health care, the environment and state’s economy on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2005.
In her address, Gov. Minner announced plans to:
- Create a universal scholarship for Delaware students and add math specialists in middle schools;
- Continue the fight against high cancer rates;
- Make health insurance more affordable;
- Increase Delaware’s recycling rate;
- Expand Livable Delaware, and;
- Reform workers compensation in order to reduce costs.
“A week ago, after taking for my last time the oath of office that all elected officials in Delaware recite, I told you that these next four years for me would be about sowing the seeds of our state’s future. I talked about engaging in endeavors that I would not see fully realized,” Gov. Minner said at the outset of her address.
“Today, I am proud to share some of the finer details of the broad portrait I painted last week, a picture of a future Delaware where our schools, our health, our environment, our economy and our government are better than they are now and better than they’ve ever been.”
Gov. Minner announced her intent to begin implementation of educator accountability this fall, the last piece of Delaware’s decade-long education reform effort.
She also said she would expand the Delaware Teacher Corps, begun last year, to provide scholarships to students in return for a commitment to teach in Delaware public schools.
Gov. Minner suggested the start of the Delaware SEED Scholarship (for “Student Excellence Equals Degree”) to guarantee that any student who does well in school will have the opportunity to attain an associate’s degree from Delaware Technical and Community College.
“I propose the creation of a program to guarantee a college education for those who want it and work for it,” Gov. Minner said. “Our promise to our children should be this: if you do well in school, we will pay for you to obtain a college degree.”
Mirroring the program that has put special reading teachers in every elementary school to provide one-on-one help to students having trouble, Gov. Minner said she will begin adding math specialists in middle schools to provide extra help to students who need additional assistance in math.
“We all know that many of the skills most in demand in the 21st century economy are in the fields of science and technology. And we know that mathematics is key to science,” Gov. Minner said. “But our state test scores show this is an area where we are not doing as well as we could, especially in the middle grades, where students are making the transition from simple math to algebra.”
Gov. Minner also said her proposed budget, to be released Thursday, will include significant funding toward her goal of offering full-day kindergarten to every child by 2008. Gov. Minner said she intends full-day kindergarten to be a voluntary program, but that she believes the vast majority of children and parents will choose to take part.
In the next step in Delaware’s fight against high cancer rates, Gov. Minner pledged support for implementation of the Year 3 recommendations of the Delaware Advisory Council on Cancer Incidence and Mortality.
Among Gov. Minner’s guests in the Senate chamber for the address was Emma Fulton, a woman whose cancer surgery was covered by a new program designed to provide treatment to cancer victims who cannot otherwise afford it.
Gov. Minner told members of the General Assembly to expect forthcoming recommendations on reducing infant mortality in Delaware. A task force on the issue will present recommendations by April 1.
To combat the rising cost of health insurance, Gov. Minner endorsed the concept of a statewide health insurance purchasing pool for businesses and families to obtain health insurance. Legislation to implement the idea is being drafted by statewide elected officials, legislators and the Governor’s office.
“This will give individuals and small businesses in Delaware the same bargaining power and risk-spreading abilities that big companies now have,” Gov. Minner said. “My hope is that this will result in more affordable health insurance premiums across the board for Delawareans.”
Gov. Minner also said she will propose legislation to make hospital treatment outcome and cost data public, so that businesses and individuals can make informed choices about where to seek medical treatment.
Environment and Livable Delaware:
The Governor endorsed the goal of increasing the residential recycling rate in Delaware to 30 percent. She said that her office would prepare legislation aimed at achieving that goal for introduction when the General Assembly reconvenes in March, based on a draft bill proposed by the Recycling Public Advisory Council.
“Increasing recycling in Delaware is an idea whose time has come and, if put off, may not come again,” Gov. Minner said. “It is the right and responsible thing to do and I ask those with an open mind to help me propose the most responsible way to do it.
Gov. Minner said Tuesday that she would soon present a package of legislation “strengthening and expanding Livable Delaware to aggressively protect our water quality and other natural resources that are endangered by sprawling development. We will better enforce the state investment strategies we have developed with our counties and towns to manage how and where we grow.”
Gov. Minner also asked the General Assembly to be prepared to address recommendations from the newly created Surface Water Management Task Force, which will report by April 1 on actions the state can take to reduce the threat of dangerous floods as well as on other issues.
To help boost the state’s economy, Gov. Minner proposed reforming the workers compensation system in Delaware, by creating an Industrial Accident Board Screening Committee and by passing legislation aimed at reducing high medical costs in workers comp cases.
"There are many people who have a stake in this issue: employers, organized labor, physicians, attorneys, and more. To get it resolved will require some serious discussions, but I want the discussions to end and to produce legislation that can be passed during this session,” she said.
The Governor also proposed reforming workforce training incentives offered by the state. She said the many incentive programs are “fractured, confusing, in amounts too small to make a difference and, as a result, are unused”, and said they should be streamlined to be “of more use to our corporate citizens and more of a boost to our state’s economy.”
Legislative and Budget Issues:
Gov. Minner also used her address to renew her call for passage of legislation that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, to ban open containers of alcohol from the passenger compartments of cars, and to reform campaign finance laws to require special interest groups that fund political ads to be disclosed.
She also highlighted her plans to: streamline state government by combining three agencies into an Office of Management and Budget; to spend $19 million improving the 800-megahertz radio system used by firefighters, police and other emergency responders; to run legislation protecting the livelihoods of National Guard and Reserve troops serving abroad; and to increase salaries for correctional officers.
“My goal this year and for the next four years is to sow seeds that will bear fruit and continue to improve the lives of Delawareans long after all of us are gone,” Gov. Minner said as she concluded her address. “I believe the initiatives I have announced today further that goal, and I look forward to discussing them with you.”