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Developing Delaware’s Workforce through retired Military

Recently, Democratic Gov. John Carney stressed the need to expand Delaware’s economy by building a stronger workforce for the future.  He stressed that this may be the state’s biggest single challenge. His remarks ring a little hollow when the state fails to utilize one of our largely untapped resources – our Delaware veterans.

Today, there are over 70,000 veterans in Delaware. Many are retired after 20 years of service from our respective armed forces with 20 years or more of civilian work life remaining before full retirement. Many retirees receive hundreds of thousands of dollars of high-level education in a variety of fields of endeavor. A majority of veterans say their military service is an important asset for their transition to civilian life and useful in giving them the skills they need for a job outside the military.  A recent PEW research survey points out that over 58% of veterans seeking employment found their military experience was useful or fairly useful in their new civilian jobs.  Military leadership training is invaluable, especially in leadership. Our state recognizes this invaluable commodity and has mentioned this a source for recruitment, but has not placed the necessary emphasis for permanent recruiting. Governor Carey did not highlight this resource in his recent State of the State address. He did address the shortage of teachers and pay issues but did not suggest that efforts should be pursued to encourage retired or separated military personnel to help fill the gaps.  In Delaware, we have the largest air mobility base in the United States with approximately 11,000 airmen and joint force personnel, civilians and families.  Delaware service men and women responsible for global airlift aboard C-5M Super Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster aircraft in support of our armed forces. The United States Air Force cannot conduct these operations without personnel trained in electronics, communications, aerospace and maintenance with sophisticated equipment. Every year many air force personnel retire and look for employment.  Many serve in our state in civilian capacities, yet we do not actively recruit retirees as a labor policy.  We also have active national guard and military service reserve units in the state where they receive military training in their respective military fields of specialties.  This training can easily translate to civilian life and jobs. Delaware should make it a priority to actively recruit at active military locations to fill the gaps for jobs.

The United States Department of Defense manages the Skill Bridge Program as an opportunity for active-duty service members to gain valuable civilian work skills and experience during their last 180 days of service.  Opportunities exist for this program to prepare separating service members to build resources, make important contacts, and explore employment while still active in preparation for the civilian workforce.  The State and civilian employers should take advantage of this preparatory program to help fill unemployment gaps.

It is important for the state to establish and maintain close partnership with the Veterans Administration (VA) in this arena. No mention of this important contact was emphasized in the Governor’s comments.

As a final note, the VA offers the Veterans Employment Service Office for career preparation and transition services to implement the Veterans Employment Opportunities Act. A close partnership with the VA and the State of Delaware would increase employment opportunities for our ever-increasing veteran population.

Briefing takes note of lead role of fentanyl in 515 suspected overdose deaths

From: Delaware Business Now

This week, Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, along with top leaders from the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services and Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security held a briefing on suspected drug overdose deaths in the state. The event included the announcement of an opioid response center.

In 2021, Delaware reported 515 overdose deaths, an increase of more than 15% over 2020, according to the Delaware Division of Forensic Science (DFS). In Kent County, overdose deaths increased 74% from 50 in 2020 to 87 in 2021. DFS also reported that 425 of the 515 deaths involved fentanyl, a synthetic pain reliever that is 50-100 times more potent than morphine.

“As a nurse, Chair of the Behavioral Health Consortium, and Lt. Governor, I hear every day from Delawareans and their families about the challenges they face battling substance use disorder and receiving the treatment services they so desperately need,” said Hall-Long. “We are working hard across our systems to expand access and connect individuals to quality treatment services. In 2020, Delaware was one of only four states to experience a decrease in the rate of overdose deaths thanks to the hard work of those who are committed to this fight. Still, too many families have an empty seat at the table because their loved one lost the battle to substance use disorder. The current data is alarming. We have to do even more to support them and ensure critical treatment and recovery services are ready and available, and to stop the loss. Delawareans deserve a behavioral health system that works for everyone.”

“Unfortunately, the number of accidental drug overdose deaths occurring in the State has seen a 19% increase over the last three years,” said JoHN Evans, director of the Delaware Division of Forensic science  “Fentanyl continues to be the most frequently found compound, with it being identified in 82.5% of the overdose deaths.  If you are a white male between the ages of 30-59, you are the most likely to die in our state as the result of a drug overdose.”

Captain Joshua Bushweller, Intelligence Commander and Director of the Delaware Intelligence and Analysis Center (DIAC) at the Delaware State Police reported that more than 5,000 drug-related crime incidents occurred in 2022, with 19% being cocaine-related, 19% heroin-related, 3% methamphetamine, 2% hallucinogen., 2% amphetamine, 1% opium, and 3% other.  Marijuana comprised 32% and paraphernalia 19%.  New Castle County continues to have the highest incidence of opioid crime incidents compared to the other counties.  Capt. Bushweller displayed a heatmap showing drug incident hotspots, calling attention to the top five cities with drug incidents in the last five years. The cities in order of prevalence are Wilmington, Dover, Newark, New Castle, and Seaford.

Dr. Greg Wanner, chief physician for the Delaware Division of Public Health, provided a demonstration of the use of fentanyl test strips that are now included in the Narcan kits being distributed.  The test strips are highly sensitive and will detect fentanyl down to 0.1 mcg/ml.

“The use of fentanyl test strips is an important part of a comprehensive harm reduction strategy to reduce overdose deaths in the state,” said Dr. Wanner. “Fentanyl is the leading cause of drug overdose deaths in Delaware.  The test strips are a preventive measure. After a test strip detects fentanyl, an individual can choose not to use the drug based on the additional risk. We will continue to discourage drug use and encourage people to seek treatment, but for persons with substance use disorder, we are using a compassionate approach to help raise awareness and empower those individuals to make informed choices.”

Heatlh and Social Services Cabinet Secretary Molly Magarik  encouraged Delawareans who need support – whether they are actively using substances or not – to reach out to trusted sources for help.

“We’re urging people who are struggling with addiction to consider different paths towards help,” said Secretary Magarik. “You can ask for the Police Diversion Program if you get in trouble with the law and are ready to get help. You can visit HelpIsHereDE.com to get information about Bridge Clinics where you can walk in and talk to someone who is in recovery themselves and who can help you explore your options for treatment. You can order fentanyl test strips from HelpisHereDE.com so you know what’s in the drugs you’re using and so you can make smart choices about protecting yourself. And you can connect with Brandywine Counseling’s drop-in centers to get help.”

Hospital Consolidation Continues to Boost Costs, Narrow Access, and Impact Care Quality

From: American Enterprise Institute As hospital consolidations swept the country over the last three decades, their executives predicted the moves would produce lower costs. But decades of health services research focused on the actual results of this trend have found the opposite. Consolidation has consistently produced higher care prices. Nevertheless in 2023, health care merger mania not only continues, but is expanding in increasingly complicated and more costly ways. Why is this happening in a nation that has otherwise made the reigning in of runaway health care costs a top economic priority?

That question was the subject of a University of Pennsylvania Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics’ virtual seminar that brought together four top authorities to review the benefits, disadvantages, and trajectory of ongoing health care industry consolidations. See video presentation on the Impact of Consolidation on Health Care: https://youtu.be/eQMlWvBqheA

Government report: Unemployment fraud may top $60 billion during pandemic

From: The Center Square A U.S. government report released Monday estimates that there could have been more than $60 billion in unemployment insurance fraud during the pandemic.

The report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office says that figure is an estimate spread over the entire unemployment system and should be “interpreted with caution.”

There has been $4.3 billion of unemployment fraud proven by state workforce agencies and at least $45 billion more in transactions that were flagged as potential fraudulent unemployment claims but not confirmed.

The U.S. Department of Labor stated that about $878 billion in total unemployment benefits were paid from April 2020 through September 2022, the report stated. There was $209 billion in expenditures under the regular unemployment insurance and about $669 billion payouts under the various pandemic unemployment programs, which ended September 6, 2021.

The report also questioned the U.S. Department of Labor’s efforts to combat fraud.

“The Department of Labor has taken steps to address such fraud,” the U.S. Government Accountability Office pointed out. “However, the department has yet to develop an antifraud strategy based on leading practices from GAO’s Fraud Risk Framework as required by law.”

The GAO continued: “While these steps help prevent, detect, and respond to fraud, as of December 2022, DOL has not yet developed an antifraud strategy based on leading practices in GAO’s Fraud Risk Framework. Also, it has not yet addressed the six October 2021 recommendations GAO made including to identify, assess the impact of, and prioritize UI fraud risks. These are essential pieces to inform an overall antifraud strategy. Without an antifraud strategy, DOL is not able to ensure that it is addressing the most significant fraud risks facing the UI system in alignment with the Fraud Risk Framework.”

Is A Little Bit More Enough?

From: Kathleen Rutherford, Executive Director, A Better Delaware 

When John D. Rockefeller, once the richest man in the world, was asked by a reporter how much money is enough, he responded: “Just a little bit more.”

Rockefeller’s sentiment is one evidently shared by the Delaware state government under Gov. John Carney’s leadership, something he affirmed on Jan. 26 while presenting his record $5.48 billion proposed Fiscal Year 2024 budget.  While there where some highlights to his presentation, Governor Carney’s budget proposal missed the mark on providing practical common-sense solutions to our states most concerning issues.

Fiscal Responsibility

Gov. Carney Carney’s budget maintains the state’s untapped $316 million “rainy day fund,” and has directed nearly $19 million into a separate “budget stabilization” reserve fund. This leaves $421.5 million sitting in a bank account, essentially, available to use only if the state falls on hard times. The fiscal responsibility of building the state’s savings account is worthy of applause but ignores the elephant in the room: our states ballooning pension debt. This year  a proposal to allocate $51M to pay down Delaware’s  public pension debt, while the current debt is $8.9 Billion. Delaware’s financial problems stem mostly from unfunded retirement obligations, (it only had seven cents for every dollar of promised retiree health care benefits.)  A Better Delaware recommends significantly paying down Delaware’s public pension debt and reducing new state worker retiree health and pension programs, so that future taxpayers will not be burdened with paying the under-funded retirement promises.

 Taxes and Spending

To the governor’s credit, Carney’s budget reduces the effective tax burden on lower-income earners by increasing the state’s standard deduction from $3,250 to $5,700, a 75% jump. It also will increase the amount of refunded tax for those who meet federal Earned Income Tax Credit requirements to 7.5%. Those moves should provide some relief for struggling Delawareans, but the budget proposal fails to enact the type of long-term, meaningful tax cuts that would unleash the state’s economic potential.

According to The Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index, Delaware ranks as having the 44th highest individual income tax burden in the nation. It leads the country with the highest corporate tax, and at 4%, Delaware’s realty transfer tax is the highest in the nation.

In a recent position piece, A Better Delaware outlined its legislative priorities, which include cutting the regressive gross receipts tax, reducing individual income taxes, slashing the realty transfer tax and lowering the corporate tax. Rather than celebrating the largest budget in state history, elected leaders should be asking why now isn’t as good a time as ever to make Delaware a more affordable place to live, work and do business.

Health Care

Carney’s budget proposal doesn’t call for any of the things most likely to reduce health care costs for Delawareans: reforms to the state’s Health Commission and Health Resources Board, the repeal of cumbersome Certificate of Need (CON) laws, nor expanding options for out-of-state health insurance plans.

Delaware ranks fifth highest in the nation for health care costs per capita. In 2020, 10.1% of Delaware adults chose not to see a doctor because of costs. The state Health Commission’s Health Resources Board, as designed, prevents and discourages health care providers from entering or expanding in Delaware due to onerous CON laws. These laws stifle competition, reduce access to care and promote monopolies.

Carney’s budget proposal should come alongside demands to audit Delaware’s Medicaid system for fraud and abuse, phase out the Health Resources Board, eliminate CON laws, and increase access to care, competition and choice. In its current form, the budget won’t do anything to alleviate these issues. The General Assembly must consider alternatives before approving Carney’s proposal.


Carney’s budget offers 9% pay raises for teachers and 3% raises for other public-school employees, as well as $53 million in “Opportunity Funding” for students with disabilities, low-income students and those whose first language is not English. This proposal follows a disturbing trend: As Delaware’s education spending grows, students’ test scores fall. That’s because throwing money at a problem doesn’t make it go away.

In 2022, Delaware ranked 47th in educational performance out of 50 states when combining the rankings in both math and reading for fourth and eighth graders. That’s despite spending more per-pupil than the other 41 states.

In light of the state’s teacher shortage, Delaware should expand pathways to becoming a teacher, accept out-of-state certifications and ease restrictions on educator licensing. The governor’s budget doesn’t call for any of that.

Also absent in the Governor’s proposal was support for school choice expansion. Expansion in the form of education savings accounts (ESA’s) and tax credit scholarships would give parents the financial freedom to choose where their kids go to school and create healthy competition in the education marketplace.

 Accountability and Transparency

This year the Bond and Capital Improvements Act totals $1.289 billion. That’s $1B in cash to the Bond Bill – up $150M from last year. It is the 5th “one-time” supplemental bill which is another 5.9% growth of overall spending. How much is sitting unspent? So why then, did Gov. Carney not include funding for oversight of the largest budget in our state’s history?

A Better Delaware recommends funding for the formation of a nonpartisan Office of Legislative Ethics and independent Inspector General’s office — ideas that nearly came to fruition in the last General Assembly. Neither does the budget include any funds to reform Delaware’s antiquated and toothless Freedom of Information Act, from which lawmakers have exempted their own communications. These offices would ensure accountability from our elected officials and state offices and give citizens recourse when they witness or fall victim to waste, fraud, abuse, or misconduct.

Workforce Development

Gov. Carney signed into law a bill that will increase Delaware’s unemployment benefit one day after announcing a whopping $46.6M investment for workforce development. Carney stated in his budget address that in Delaware “thousands more job openings than we have people looking for work.” Why then, make it attractive to not apply for a job? A Better Delaware believes that by tightening unemployment benefit requirements to have applicants prove that they are seeking work and showing up for job interviews will help in decreasing our states workforce shortage.

  The governor’s budget does nothing to reform burdensome business regulations, reduce occupational licensing fees, or increase apprenticeship ratios. Occupational licensing fees, which require trained professionals to pay for the privilege to work, particularly impact lower-income Delawareans. Those who can least afford it are shut out of job opportunities by costly regulations. Apprenticeship ratios, which often require three or even four journeypersons for each apprentice, restrict employers from creating opportunities for young tradespeople, crippling their ability to fill jobs that so many Delawareans need. If the governor was truly committed to workforce development, addressing these barriers to entry would have been highlighted as a priority in his budget proposal.

According to a study by Mercatus, Delaware is has the 2nd most regulations per capita in the region.  Before passing the budget, the General Assembly should insist on a framework to reduce overburdensome, antiquated regulations. Reducing the number of regulations would refocus Delaware’s government on the issues that matter while also unleashing the job creating power of small businesses.

 Energy and Climate

One and a half years after allocating some $80 million to a Clean Water Trust Fund which hasn’t since completed a single project (or started more than one, for that matter), Carney proposed an additional $26.2 million for the fund, to be administered in large part by the notoriously opaque Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. Before this money is allocated, there needs to be a serious inquiry into the efficiency and transparency of the Clean Water Trust.

The Trust was pitched to the General Assembly on the promise that it would not run out of funds or require new legislation to replenish its war chest because it would be replenished year after year by interest from project loans. With no projects to point to, the Trust is far from self-sustaining. The General Assembly must take a hard look at this before authorizing additional funds.

Additionally, as the state moves toward a near-total ban of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035 (and without approval by the legislature), the governor’s budget proposal includes $57 million for EV infrastructure and other associated projects. Rather than allowing the free market to drive this technological “advancement,” Carney has signaled his intention to spend an ever-ballooning amount of taxpayer dollars to subsidize an initiative with questionable environmental benefits.

The General Assembly should assert its right to weigh in on the gas-powered vehicle ban and offshore wind projects by rejecting any budget that authorizes the spending of state funds on these initiatives without legislative consent. In this budget, lawmakers can assert their power over runaway executive agencies. In addition, establishment of an independent Energy Advisory Council is needed to establish a realistic state energy plan to be approved by the Delaware legislature.

With unprecedented Federal and State funds flowing through Delaware, Dover has a unique and historic opportunity to lead in the moderation of the governments overall share and control of those citizen taxpayer dollars.

Now is the time to ensure more access and freedom of those dollars go to the individuals and businesses permitting them to choose where it is most productive with less mandates and restrictions. All the while ensuring all the branches of governments portions are openly, rigorously, and independently reviewed to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse at each level.




Adding retirees to health panels passes Senate

From: Town Square Live 

Despite vehement opposition from a state retirees’ group, a bill that would add retirees to committees that help determine health care options overwhelmingly passed the Senate Wednesday, just moments after it had cleared a committee hearing. Voting against it were three Republican senators.

Senate Bill 29, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, would give retirees a voice by putting one retiree with full voting rights on the State Employee Benefits Committee that oversees retiree healthcare plans.

It also would create the Healthcare Benefits Advisory Subcommittee of the State Employee Benefits Committee, with three state retirees and four members of the General Assembly and give that committee the power to hold public meetings and make recommendations about retiree health plans, with a goal of doing that by May 1.

Townsend said in both the hearing and the Senate that he didn’t think the May 1 deadline was feasible, but it was a goal.

An amendment added to the bill would require members of the state committee to attend its meetings themselves, instead of sending a representative, but would allow members to continue sending representatives to subcommittee hearings.

The state’s move last year to switch all 30,000 retirees to a Medicare Advantage plan instead of continuing their current specially tailored plan galvanized retiree opposition. The retirees accused the state of failing to live up to guarantees of health care and of hiding the fact that the plan was being changed.

The state argued that it had not been done secretly, but in open meetings that various officials attended, and that it was necessary to stabilize health care expenses in order to be able to continue to provide high quality care for future retirees.

After a group of retirees led by retired state Rep. John Kowalko formed RiseDelaware and sued the state.

Superior Court Judge Calvin Scott sided with them, saying that the state had promised that health benefits would not change, but the Medicare Advantage plan included requirements for preauthorization and demanded retirees use in-network doctors, big changes.

He ordered the state to stop their plans. The state later allowed retirees to stay on their current plan.

Townsend said there is no process in place to confirm what happens next, and his bill would help solve that problem.

Retirees oppose bill

No, it won’t, Kowalko testified in the Senate Executive Committee hearing.

Kowalko said RiseDelaware is worried that the bill is being fast-tracked and that it was only designed to make the General Assembly feel like it was doing something.



“Retirees represented by RiseDelaware have concluded that this piece of legislation appears to be an attempt by the General Assembly leadership and this administration to avoid or ignore their responsibility and obligation to retirees,” Kowalko said.

Faith Rentz of the Delaware Department of Human Resources said that her office does support SB29, but it will come with costs, even though the bill says there will be none.

Rentz said that will include $100,000 for salary and benefits for someone to organize and oversee the subcommittee, and likely another $150,000 for consulting and actuarial advice. In addition, she said, the Department of Justice is likely to ask for money because it will be expected to provide advice.

Former Sen. Karen Peterson, who has been leading the charge with Kowalko, said Townsend’s bill is merely moving around the deck chairs on the Titanic.

“Senate Bill 29 will do absolutely nothing to resolve the retiree health care issue because the subcommittee created by this bill is loaded with the people who are hell bent on shoving Medicare Advantage down our throats,” she said. “We already know what the recommendation is going to be. But this way you can all pat yourselves on the back.”

She said a vote for the bill was a vote against retirees, especially those over 65 who are on Medicare.

“If you want to do something constructive, then grandfather us into a Medicare supplement plan. People who are already in the plan stay there. New people get the new plan,” she said. “That’s how it’s always been handled and should continue to be handled.”

Mary Graham said there are more options to explore than just shifting everyone to a Highmark Medicare Advantage plan, and the state should consider them.



Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, said during the committee hearing that the bill is not an end-all, be-all solution.

“But this is a step,” he said. “It’s a very important step so that we as a body know what we need to do to make healthcare for retirees work.”

His mother is a state retiree and he said she had a lot of questions.

“I think this bill gives us the tools that we’re going to need to make an informed decision for all of you,” he told the people who testified. “Not just the ones that are here now, not just the retirees, the current retiree. Let’s take a look at a long-term, sustainable solution to retiree health care.”

During the Senate debate, Sen. Eric Buckson, R-Dover, asked for the Senate to table the bill to allow more comment.

So many people wanted to comment during the committee hearing that they were limited to one minute each.

“Many folks who showed up today and had value in their conversation and deserve the opportunity to speak in committee,” said Buckson, who is serving his first term in the Senate.