- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

DOVER, Del. (AP) - Democrat John Carney was sworn in as Delaware’s 74th governor Tuesday, pledging that he will strive “to live up to the trust of leadership” in working to improve the lives of Delawareans.

“It is a great privilege and a great responsibility, and we will not let you down,” Carney vowed after taking the oath of office in front of a sea of umbrellas in a rain-soaked ceremony on the steps of Legislative Hall.

Bethany Hall-Long, a Democrat who has represented the Middletown area in the General Assembly for the past several years, also was sworn in as lieutenant governor.

Carney acknowledged the state’s challenges, including significant budget problems, economic development needs, and unabated gun violence in Wilmington, the state’s largest city.

“Do we have challenges? Yes. Will they be difficult to overcome? Yes,” he said. “Can we meet those challenges by working hard and working together? You bet.”

Carney, who has made economic development and job creation a priority, said the state needs to do more to support entrepreneurs and small businesses.

“We will work in partnership with business and labor. We will reach across the aisle, we will reach across state lines and national borders to grow Delaware’s economy,” he said.

Carney is scheduled to sign an executive order Wednesday establishing a group to look at a public-private partnership to drive economic development activities, which currently are overseen by the cabinet-level Delaware Office of Economic Development.

Meanwhile, he vowed to work with Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki to address crime in the city, saying residents should be able to go to work and to school “without the fear of violence,” and businesses should be confident in investing there.

“I truly believe that our state cannot be successful if Wilmington is not successful,” said Carney, adding that officials must work to break “the poverty to prison pipeline.”

“In the short term, we will get serious about crime and target resources to the most crime-ridden neighborhoods,” he said. ” … We all have a stake and a compelling responsibility to make Wilmington healthy again.”

Carney also said his administration will work to improve Delaware’s public schools, especially for poor and minority students. He plan to reorganize the state Department of Education into an agency more focused on supporting schools and teachers at the local level rather than exercising top-down control.

“The hardest truth may be that we can’t do anything unless we get our state’s finances under control,” Carney said. “We have a revenue problem but we also have a spending problem.”

Based on the latest revenue projections, the current appropriation limit for fiscal 2018, which starts July 1, is $201.1 million, or 5.1 percent, less than this year’s general fund appropriation.

With additional obligations for Medicaid, school enrollment growth and debt service expected next year, budget officials have suggested the real shortfall, compared to the current budget, is about $350 million.

Carney promised to develop a plan over the coming months that will address the budget crisis, not just for this year, but for years to come.

“We’re at the end of the road on that one,” he said. “There’s nowhere else to kick the can.”

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