Posts Tagged ‘Markell’

Going to war, balancing a budget: similarities

May 14, 2009

In the winter of 1991, Joe Biden celebrated his swearing in for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate at a reception in one of Washington’s Senate buildings. A few weeks later, federal employees cleared the same 20-foot-ceilinged room of its celebratory trappings to make room for a Senate hearing chaired by Sen. Biden. President George H.W. Bush had recently declared war on Iraq, following its invasion of Kuwait, and an age-old debate resumed over whether the President can take such action without Congress’s prior approval.

A professor of history from a university in North Carolina appeared before the senators. He told them that while Congress could argue constitutionally that a President can’t declare war without its approval, history has shown that Congress is a timid lot when it comes to making such decisions. He said Congress has typically ceded that opening authority to Presidents, choosing to weigh in afterwards rather than taking on the political liability from the start. In other words, when it comes to tough decisions, Congress would rather the President stick his or her nose out into the storm first.

An analogous situation is underway in Delaware. With the state facing an unprecedented budget shortfall in the $780 million neighborhood, the General Assembly appears just as happy to lay low while Gov. Markell spends the opening months of his first term making the tough decisions necessary to balance the state’s budget.

The General Assembly must eventually approve the budget, but as long as it hangs back, its members can keep options open to point the finger of blame at the chief executive if the voters get up on their hind legs when the salary cuts and tax and fee increases go into effect July 1.

Markell: no layoffs to trim budget

May 13, 2009

Jack Markell

Jack Markell

Cape Gazette reporter Kevin Spence and I interviewed Gov. Jack Markell for about half an hour Monday morning at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover. The impromptu interview, wedged by the governor and communications director Joe Rogalsky into a busy schedule, reinforces campaign commitments to accessibility and open government.

Facing an unprecedented budget deficit of an estimated $780 million, Markell nonetheless appeared rested and confident. He said he is making no plans to use layoffs of state employees to trim Delaware’s expenses and reiterated his budget package of cuts, and tax and fee increases, to address the shortfall dilemma.

Markell said he doesn’t see any of the budget votes ahead as fights: “We have to balance the budget. We have no choice. If we don’t pass a balanced budget then the government will be forced to shut down. We can’t write checks on July 1 if we don’t have a balanced budget by the end of June. If the General Assembly restores any of the cuts that I have proposed, or rejects any of the tax or fee increases I have proposed, they have to come up with cuts or increases in other areas.”

Markell said his administration also reviewed the possibility of an early retirement option to trim the state’s payroll. “It just would have cost too much money,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

The governor said he doesn’t expect much good news when Delaware’s Economic and Financial Advisory Committee (DEFAC) meets soon for its final prediction of revenues available for state operations in fiscal year 2010. “The forecast could very easily worsen,” he said. “We could be looking at the shortfall growing beyond the $780 million figure we’re using now.” He said while he appreciates $155 million in federal stimulus money to help close this year’s gap, that’s only good for one year.