- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

DOVER, Del. (AP) - Legislative budget writers targeted education funding Wednesday as they carved millions of dollars from Gov. Jack Markell’s proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.

The Joint Finance Committee voted to trim $9.1 million from Markell’s proposed education budget, including $3 million to increase starting pay for teachers and $2 million of the $11 million he wanted to continue early childhood education initiatives previously funded with federal grants.

The panel also nixed Markell’s proposal to expand a state scholarship program to part-time students and those whose enrollment has lapsed, saving $500,000, and cut $3 million he earmarked to expand internet capacity in public schools.

The committee also rejected $1 million in new funding for technology block grants for schools funding, and another $1 million in general funds for a new statewide afterschool initiative.

Lawmakers also made a variety of cuts in some of the administration’s other signature proposals, cutting $500,000 for a pilot body camera program for Delaware State Police and more than $2 million for substance abuse disorder services to help fight a growing epidemic of drug addiction.

They also rejected Markell’s $2.2 million proposal for a 1 percent increase for nonprofit providers of services to clients in the departments of Health and Social Services, Services for Children, Youth and Their Families and Correction.

The budget committee also eliminated $500,000 in additional spending for a state rental assistance program and $120,000 for new libraries.

Although eliminating spending for some programs, lawmakers added or restored funding in other areas, including $23 million for increased Medicaid spending and $1.5 million for increased prison pharmaceutical costs. They also added $1.2 million in general fund appropriations for state police patrols in Sussex County that had been paid for last year with one-time settlement money.

To date, lawmakers have cut about $21 million from Markell’s proposed budget, leaving them with a spending plan that is still 4.7 percent, or $184 million, higher than this year’s budget. They’ve also set aside $6 million in contingency funds to help pay for a Wilmington school redistricting plan if it gains favor later this month in the General Assembly.

The budget committee is expected to wrap up its work Thursday.

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