Gov. John Carney during his 2020 State of the State address

On the heels of proposed major investments in clean water and education announced earlier this week, Gov. John Carney hosted his fourth State of the State address Thursday, touting three years of proclaimed successes, and proposed a new initiative: free college for children in the foster care system at Delaware's public state colleges. 

An addendum to the "First Chance" initiative founded by the governor's wife, Tracey Carney, proposed allowing for the waiving of tuition and fees for students who choose to attend Delaware Tech, Delaware State, and the University of Delaware when they age out of the foster care system. Delaware State sophomore Mayda Berrios was highlighted as a State of the State attendee who inspired the Carneys to pursue this initiative.

"Our children should be our focus, and there are perhaps none more vulnerable than those in our foster care system," said Carney.

Other education initiatives included one book per month, free of charge, for all Delaware children through the age of five as long as they register for a program piloted in partnership with State Librarian Annie Norman and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, to get youth reading early and often. 

Carney also proposed a 50% increase in statewide funding for Early Childhood Assistance Program pre-K seats over the next three years, through Opportunity grant funding.  

He also announced a healthcare provider loan repayment program.

"In some areas, of our state, we simply don't have enough physicians," he said. "We want to attract some of the best and brightest young doctors to areas where they're needed the most."

Guns, for at least the second year in a row, made an appearance in the address. During his State of the State address, Carney said creating safer neighborhoods, towns, and cities also remains a priority, and he called for "every member in this chamber" to again pursue "common sense" legislation banning "ghost guns" and high-capacity magazines.

Amidst announcements that more Delawareans were at work than at any point prior in the state's history--with more than half working in small businesses--he focused on encouraging more growth at the top of his speech, detailing the efforts made with Delaware's EDGE grants to foster stronger small businesses. 

Showcasing plans to soon ditch plastic bags in the state, and the Keep DE Litter Free campaign, Carney introduced a new environmental initiative: he wants to plant one million trees in Delaware--one for every Delawarean (though, while Delaware is growing, it should be noted the state does not yet have a population that reaches the one-million-mark). 

Highlighting health achievements, Carney said, despite a nationwide decline, there was a 6% increase in state residents buying health insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchange, where the governor also pointed out rates had been reduced by more than 20% from the previous year through legislation introduced by Rep. Ray Siegfried. The governor said 95% of the state now has health care coverage. 

Reflecting on the internal status of the Delaware government, there were some concerns expressed Thursday by the governor. He announced 40% of "pension-eligible state employees" would have the opportunity to retire within the next five years, and called for an increased effort to "recruit a new generation of public servants into state government." He noted passage of 12 weeks of parental leave for state workers as a hallmark program, which he called "the best in the nation," passed under his administration that would help accomplish that goal.

He also wants to create a single location for state residents to access everything from park passes to voter registration to license renewals. Delaware OneStop would centralize the needs of Delaware citizens and be modeled after a similar portal for small businesses.