Governor John Carney (D) did something right before the election earlier this month that probably ends any civil relationship he has with the General Assembly, and also may garner something that no Democratic Governor has faced in forty years: a primary challenge.
Carney vetoed two Democratic bills that would have made life just a little easier for middle class and working class families. One bill that was vetoed have converted a $400 school property tax credit for senior citizens to a refundable income tax credit based on eligibility. The second bill that was vetoed changed Delaware’s earned income tax credit program, making the tax credit fully refundable on your state taxes if you receive it.
You may be thinking to yourself, wait, how did Carney vetoed something just now, when the General Assembly ended its session at the end of June. Well, it is the “custom” of the General Assembly holding passed bills until the Governor calls for them. You see, normally, as it is with the federal Congress, once both chambers of the legislature pass a bill, it is immediately sent to the Chief Executive (either the Governor or the President) for action. And then the countdown starts. If President does not act within 10 days the bill automatically becomes law if it is not vetoed. Here, in Delaware, these bills were passed months ago, but they were not sent to Carney until the week before the election. Because, as “long standing custom” holds, the Governor must call for passed legislation to sign. Otherwise the General Assembly hold the legislation until he does call for it.
But, all outstanding bills and resolutions that are hanging out there waiting to be called, expire at the election, because the day after the elections, newly elected Senators and Representatives take office immediately, and thus, the old session of the General Assembly is deemed complete. So if the Governor never calls for a bill to sign, then it’s a silent veto.
Democratic lawmakers grew tired of this silent veto game by Carney and sent him the bills to sign or veto. They should do that for now on. That custom of deferring to the Governor is and should be dead for all time. When you pass a bill, force the Governor to sign or veto it within 10 days.
But we digress. Why did Carney veto these two bills? He gave some illogical Trumpian reason, that making the tax credit fully refundable for the working poor would raise taxes on 35,000 families. The sponsors of the bills, State Representatives Paul Baumbach and Kim Williams, immediately refuted his reasons. But that is really not important.
What is important to recognize is that John Carney is a mediocre Carperdyne model of a governor, and he should be challenged by an actual liberal Democrat in 2020. And hopefully these vetos have awaken the entire Democratic establishment to that fact. But like the whole leadership challenge in the new House to try and prevent Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi from becoming Speaker, you can’t beat something with nothing. And right now there is no obvious candidate that intends to run.
So let’s start that discussion.