Use scarce state funds for corporate aid, governor says

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell says his state has raised $100 million more than it expected from unclaimed securities in trustee bank accounts and other "one-time" revenue sources so far this year. "We need to invest that money now," he told Delaware employers in a conference call this morning.

Some $35 million of the $100 million has already been committed by the General Assembly to restoring state workers' pay, which was cut 2.5% to balance last year's Delaware budget. Markell wants to use another $38 million to replenish the Strategic Fund, which gives or lends money to corporations that promise to add jobs in the state; and for highway and building repair projects, before the General Assembly grabs it all to restore more of the programs it had to cut last year.

The fund has been depleted by subsidies to the planned Fisker electric car plant near Wilmington, the clean-up and reopening of the shuttered former Valero Corp. refinery in Delaware City, and improvements to the financially precarious Nanticoke Hospital in Seaford, among other projects. Markell wants to replenish it.

"It's more than just priming the pump," insisted Alan Levin, Markell's economic development boss and former owner of Happy Harry's Discount Drugs, now part of Walgreen's. "Like the governors says, we need to be smarter, we need to be faster, we need to be more nimble. Regardless of what's been happening everywhere else." 

And what is happening everywhere else? Writes economist Ed Yardeni in Dr. Ed's Report today: 

"California... is now $19 million in debt despite income and sales tax increases... Based on credit-default swap (bond insurance) spreads, as of May 11, 2010, California was in the top ten for highest government default probabilities in the world, just below Latvia and ahead of Sicily, and had a 20% probability of defaulting... New York State has sputtered along without a balanced budget since April 1... New Jersey (Gov.) Chris Christie (has proposed) slashing spending across the board to close a gap of about $11 billion... Illinois' backlog of unpaid bills to hospitals, universities, social-service providers and other swill probably exceed $5.5 billion at the end of June."