Carney rolls out proposed fiscal ’21 budget

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Gov. John Carney on Thursday presented a $4.6 billion Fiscal Year 2021 Recommended Budget. The 2021 budget is up nearly four percent from last years budget.

“We presented a responsible budget plan today that makes investments to improve our economy, strengthen our public schools, and protect Delaware’s unique quality of life,” Gov. John Carney said. “This plan makes significant new investments to clean up Delaware’s drinking water and waterways. We are also investing in new school construction, and in classrooms throughout the state – not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because the future of our state depends on the success of our children. And we’re continuing to make capital investments to modernize our roads, bridges, and public transit.”

Carney continued, “But we are also we continuing our responsible budget plan, which sets aside $161.5 million in savings to help prepare for years when our revenue trends downward. This is a balanced, responsible plan that I look forward to discussing with members of the General Assembly.”

The budget contained few surprises. Carney previewed budget priorities last week in the State of State address.

The plan will not please budget hawks who want to see a budget freeze or limiting the increase to two percent, the annual gain in the cost of living. Also suggested is a cut in the state’s highest income tax rate.

Others within Carney’s party want to add tax brackets for the wealthiest Delawareans.

Revenues have continued to show modest increases during fiscal 2020.

Highlights

  • $50 million to establish aClean WaterTrustaccount to clean up Delaware’s drinking water and waterways. Includes increased funding for low-income and underserved communities
  • $50 million for a new school and other spending in the Christina School District area in the city of Wilmington

Economic development

  • $20 million for the Delaware Strategic Fund to furthereconomic development and small business EDGE Grants
  • $10 million to expand Graduation Laboratory Space to spur bio-tech innovation and entrepreneurship
  • $10 million for site readiness so businesses haveoptions to locate and expand in Delaware
  • $10 million for theTransportation Infrastructure Investment Fundto improve public infrastructure to support job-creating economic development projects
  • Capital Transportation Plan: $4.5 billion through 2026 to modernize Delaware’s transportation system

Schools

  • Opportunity Funding: Second year of a three-year commitmentdedicating $75 million for English learners and low-income students, and mental health supports
  • Increasing Access to Pre-K:
    • $2 million to provide 155 new quality child care seats
    • $3 million for Early Childhood Assistance Program capacity building
    • Goal: increase access by 50% in three years
  • Educators: $29 million – 2% pay increase and steps for public school educators
  • Schools:
    • $183.7 million – School construction and renovations in districts across the state
    • $36.5 million – Current year growth and projected school year 2020–2021 enrollment growth
    • $4.6 million – School Technology infrastructure
  • Partnering with Higher Education:
    • $20 million – Funding for the Higher Education Economic Development Investment Fund to supplement investments that Delaware’s institutes of higher education are making to improve job growth and economic development in the state

Quality of life

  • Open Space and Farmland Preservation: $20 million to continue investments to preserve open space and farmland across Delaware
  • Affordable Housing and Strong Neighborhoods: $14 million toto clean up and restore abandoned properties, attack blight, and provide options for all Delawareans to live safely in communities
  • Downtown Development Districts: $5.6 million to continue to encourage private investment in our towns and cities
  • Public Safety Communications: $8.3 million to enhance communication systems
  • Security in DOC Facilities:$4 million for security cameras
  • Municipal Street Aid: $4 million to improve local roads

Finance

  • Based on Executive Order 21, the amount available for the operating budget is calculated based on an index relative to the overall economy to help reduce budget volatility. Any revenue above the index will be directed to one-time investments and savings. Carney has recommended setting aside $161.5 million over and above constitutional limits on appropriations, and limiting operating budget growth to 3.99 percent. This isless than the appropriation benchmarkcalculated by the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council.

Workforce

  • 2 percent pay increase for State employees
  • Continued support of Paid Parental Leave:Over 200 employees have taken advantage of the benefit to spend time with their newborn babies and young adopted children

State facilities

  • $17.5 million for Kent & Sussex Family Court facilities
  • $7.5 million for deferred maintenance for state buildings
  • $2.8 million for Carvel State Office Building improvements and renovations.
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