Last week, government affairs professionals representing clients in Delaware gathered for the State Chamber’s Annual Government Affairs retreat. During the conference presentations were given by University of Delaware Center for Demographics professor Ed Ratledge, Office of Management and budget director Ann Visalli, and State treasurer Ken Simpler. All three had a similar message—Delaware faces some tough challenges, but is also seeing some positive successes along the way.
Most notable is Delaware’s aging population that is continuing to strain both the State’s health care infrastructure network, and for those receiving Medicaid, straining the State’s budget. Close to 40% of all Delawareans receive some measure of state aid, either through Medicaid, or as part of the state employee system, and year over year increases ($81 million), are a large part of the expected $150 million budget shortfall expected for 2016.
In addition to an aging population, new births are significantly down, and the next generation of workers are much lower in terms of overall numbers of the Boomer generation, who are aging out of the workforce and will require health care and other services.
Of other interest was speculation on how JFC members plan to fill that $150 million budget gap, and so far focus is on a combination of raising corporate income tax and franchise tax rates—something the State Chamber has warned will stifle business growth and relocation in the Delaware. The next legislative session will be a roller coaster ride for sure as budget discussions heat up.
As for good news, JP Morgan Chase announced they plan to create 1800 jobs over the next 4 years to fill their newly revamped Delaware Tech Center located on property purchased from AstraZeneca. Other large employers are evaluating their presence in Delaware, with hopeful signs of both staying and growing their workforce.
There is good news to be had, and it is important to focus on it. It is just as important to make sure the State is making the right decisions to capitalize on the growth opportunities available, and to create an environment to foster economic growth. State Chamber members can expect vigorous discussion coming from Dover on how best to reach this goal, and they can count on the State Chamber to be in the middle of it all advocating for its members.
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.