Web Exclusive: Full Interview One on One with Delaware Gov. Jack - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Web Exclusive: Full Interview One on One with Delaware Gov. Jack Markell

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WBOC debuted a new segment called "One on One," in which we sit down with political leaders to get their take on the issues. WBOC's Steve Hammond recently sat down with Delaware Gov. Jack Markell to discuss the state's present issues and future concerns. Below is the full transcript of the interview. Other one on one interviews coming up in the future include U.S. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware.

Steve Hammond: What keeps you up at night?

Governor Markell: So these days I think a lot about the budget, the economy is fortunately doing much better, our unemployment rate came down to about 4.6 percent. Our job growth has been some of the best in the country over the last couple of years. I think we're the only state on the East Coast in the top 10 and we double our surrounding states, so that's positive. However, we certainly have more work to do as long as there is any Delawarean who is not working that wants to be, so that's the positive side. Unfortunately, our budget is not comprised of revenues that are tied to the economy; in fact well over half our budget is not tied to the economy. For example, our personal income taxes are growing nicely which you can expect with the economy getting better, but categories like the lottery and the bank franchise tax [are] regressive. We are having some challenges there and you're seeing that in some of the budget work we have to do.

Steve Hammond: You talked about job growth, and it seems to me that manufacturing jobs are becoming stagnant and more and more states are becoming right to work. How do you feel about right to work zones in Delaware in such places as Kent or Sussex counties?

Governor Markell: This is not something we heard a lot from the manufacturing companies we've talked to, and we're seeing some growth here in Delaware in the manufacturing industry. For example, Grayling Industries brought some jobs up from Mexico, Kraft has brought some jobs up from Mexico, and Energizer brought some jobs down from Canada. So what we generally hear from businesses about what we can do to make them more successful is workforce development. They want to make sure they have access to the best possible workers. We haven't really heard a lot about the right to work law broadly or the right tot work zones.

Steve Hammond: So you don't think that is a factor at all?

Governor Markell: It's just not something we haven't heard a lot about, and we're really not convinced it would make a big difference. What we focus on primarily is continuing to invest in workforce quality.

Success/Disappointments as Governor

Steve Hammond: What would you say has been your biggest success as governor?

Governor Markell: Well, I think the economy is doing much better since I took office. We have made some really great progress with the budget and the economy of Delaware. As I said, we have some of the lowest unemployment in the country and some of the highest job growth. So we think that is very important, but we have made some improvements in the longer term as well. The improvement in workforce and schools is something we're really proud of and think is very important. So we think we are much better positioned then we were but we still have work to do.

Steve Hammond: What would you say is your greatest disappointment so far?

Governor Markell: Well, I spent a lot of time trying to get some additional funding in the transportation system last year; the maintenance of roads, bridges and the like. I just think it's at a time where Maryland is investing a lot of money in their roads and bridges. Pennsylvania is doing the same thing, and Virginia is doing the same thing. With some of the surrounding states making major investments in something, I think it's a bad idea for Delaware to be left behind. I spent a lot of time on it last year without much to show for it, but I'm hopeful we will have a better outcome this year.

Steve Hammond: Will a hike in the gas tax resurface again?

Governor Markell: Well, I'm sort of agnostic about where the money comes from. Last year as governor I said we need to invest in transportation and I thought I needed to lay out a path so I did suggest the gas tax. That being said, I don't really care where the money comes from, I've said to the General Assembly, ‘If you have a better idea to generate that revenue, lets talk about it.' So I'm anxious to hear what they come up with and if it's something reasonable and good I'm sure I can get on board with it.

Responding to Criticism

Steve Hammond: When you were originally running for governor, you ran as a centrist Democrat. But your critics will say you have moved to the left and have become more liberal. How do you respond to these criticisms?

Governor Markell: Well, I think if you talked to some of the folks in the far left of my party I think they would disagree, because they believed I have moved the opposite way. However, I resist the labels. I don't think the labels mean very much. I am always happy to talk about the issues but we have been heavily focused on the economy. To me, putting people to work is very important and our track record shows we are successful. Other issues are important to me, but the economy is my main concern.

Hot-Button Issues

Steve Hammond: What about the death penalty?

Governor Markell: So it's something I have been thinking a lot about lately. I have been talking to people on both sides of the issue and I expect to share my position with the public very shortly.

Steve Hammond: Farmers downstate are pressing the state to do more when it comes to farmland preservation. They would say it has been inadequately funded. Are you ready to do more when it comes to agricultural preservation?

Governor Markell: Well, I sat on the Ag Land Preservation Board for 10 years. I'm a big supporter of the program. We have a problem with the budget and you could walk through Legislative Hall and talk to people who support every single issue and say they feel there isn't enough money there. I would love to do more for farmland preservation because I think it makes a lot of sense. We probably got the best program in the country at least as [recently] as a couple of years ago. We've preserved more farmland per capita than any other state in the country. I think we have a program that makes a lot of sense with a lot of integrity. I love would to do more and there is a lot of things I would like to do more. But our budget, if you look over the last six years, we actually have  -.8 percent annual budget growth. We have compared our administration back to Pete du Pont, Mike Castle, Tom Carper, and Ruth Ann Minner. Our budget growth has been much lower than any of theirs. We think it's important we do everything that we can so taxpayers get the best possible return on their investment. That being said, there are programs like farmland preservation, like Open Space, and lots of others that we would like to invest more in.

Job Growth in Sussex County

Steve Hammond: On the one hand we talk about farmland preservation in Sussex County but the county also desperately needs jobs. What are your plans on trying to spur more job growth, manufacturing or whatever it may be in Sussex County?

Governor Markell: Right, so obviously the poultry industry has been really important in Sussex County for a long time and that industry is doing better than it was a few years ago for a number of reasons. And we've been pleased to see some pretty good investment from a number of poultry companies, including [Allen] Harim. We think those investments are really great for the future in terms in putting people to work now and later on. As I mentioned, Grayling Industries having brought jobs to Seaford from Mexico. Perdue announcing they are going to bring 150 new jobs to Sussex County as well. So these are steps in the right direction but we certainly have more to do in Sussex County and for matter throughout the state. The question is how do we do it, and we really take our leave from the businesses we talk to who tell us what they care most about. The quality of schools, the quality of workforce, the cost of doing business, the regulatory environment, connections with institutions in the state, and the quality of life, and the quality of infrastructure.

Steve Hammond: I would say that is one of the weaknesses in Sussex County is the quality of infrastructure and that is an expensive task.

Governor Markell: It is, and of course that's one of the reasons we want to invest more in transportation. I'll give you a great Sussex County example: the Georgetown airport [and] PATS Aircraft, which is a great company. The skill level of the employees at PATS is remarkable. They will gut an airplane and retrofit it with the most advanced systems. They can currently take about seven 737s at a time. If we extended the runway they could take 757s. If they took 757s, they'll build a new hanger. They would hire 100–150 people and it makes all the sense in the world. But we have to have the funding not only to extend the runway, but also to move Park Avenue as well, and that takes funding. When I'm out there talking about the importance of investing in transportation, this is not just feel good stuff. This is about safety; it's about reducing congestion. It's also about economic development.

Future/End of Term

Steve Hammond: Let's talk about your future when your term ends: what's next for citizen Jack Markell or candidate Jack Markell?

Governor Markell: That I have no idea. This job is incredibly demanding. I love this job and feel blessed to have it. I'm going to give it my all between now and then. The one thing I know for sure is that the decision I make about my future will be very much in consultation with my wife. Carla was not all that crazy about the idea of me running for governor in the first place, but was very glad I won, because it's a great opportunity for both of us to work on important things. But we'll have to decide together what it is we want to do next.

Steve Hammond: As you think about that and when you walk out of this office for the last time, is there a most memorable moment in your term as governor so far?

Governor Markell: Well, I think there are actually a lot of them. All of the most memorable moments have to do with individual Delawareans that I have met. People who have told me their stories. One of the ones I'll never forget is a girl who was in eighth grade at one of the schools in Harrington. It was after Carla's story - my wife's story - it was sort of her own childhood with dealing with alcoholism in her family and sort of Carla's ability to navigate through all that. This 12–year-old girl came up to me and she said, ‘Are you the governor?' And I said, ‘Yes,' and she said, ‘I read the story about your wife.' And she said, ‘That's my story. And knowing that your wife was able to achieve so much inspires me.' And so the most memorable stories for me are really the people of Delaware that inspire me and I find them all over the place. One place I find them the most is Delaware Tech, not just to meet the folks who are straight out of school, but to meet the folks who are in their 30s, 40s, even 50s. People, who are working, are raising a family, but feel that they are underemployed and they have the courage to invest in their own future. I mean these are folks who haven't taken algebra in 25 or 30 years and there they are taking algebra 2. Their persistence to stick it out knowing that at the other end of that degree there is a better job opportunity for them. Whether it's that or whether it is people who work with the most vulnerable population. For me all the most memorable events will be based on the people I have met.


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