DOVER, Del. (AP) - Gov. John Carney is proposing a $4.7 billion operating budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, an increase of roughly 3.5% over this year’s $4.5 billion budget.
Carney on Thursday also proposed boosting the capital budget for construction, transportation and economic development from this year’s $708 million appropriation to a record high $894 million.
For the third piece of the budget puzzle, a grants package for community groups and nonprofit organizations, Carney is recommending $55.5 million, an increase of a little more than $1 million.
The budget proposal is based on December’s revenue estimates from a panel that sets Delaware’s official revenue projections. The panel will continue meeting through June, when it will provide final estimates before lawmakers approve a budget.
Despite the spending increases, Carney’s proposal keeps expenditures to no more than 98% of estimated available revenue, as required by the state constitution. It also maintains Delaware’s never-tapped “rainy day” fund and sets aside $68 million in a “budget stabilization” reserve fund he created for budget planning purposes in 2018. The fund, which was tapped this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic, currently has a balance of $63 million.
Carney’s proposal includes $22.7 million for across-the-board pay raises for state employees of $500 or 1%, whichever is higher.
Other highlights of Carney’s proposal include $50 million for new clean water initiatives, $50 million for new Family Court facilities in Kent and Sussex counties, and $3.6 million as an initial step in eventually equipping all police officers in Delaware with body cameras.
Carney also is proposing $50 million in capital funding for economic development. That total includes $20 million for the state strategic fund, which is used to attract and retain businesses, and $10 million each for site readiness, transportation infrastructure, and laboratory space programs aimed at helping lure businesses to Delaware.
The overall capital budget includes $517.3 million for construction, maintenance and technology, and $377 million for transportation projects.
The recommended budget also includes a $12.5 million increase for the state’s share of Medicaid funding and a $30 million contingency for coronavirus response.
“We do expect that certain programs will get the support from the new federal package,” Carney said.
Carney is also recommending $10 million in additional “Opportunity Funding” for disadvantaged students, defined as children from low-income families, those with disabilities and children whose first language is not English. That would bring the total for next year to $38 million.
Under his administration’s settlement of a school funding lawsuit brought by the ACLU and Community Legal Aid Society, Carney is required to seek significantly higher funding from the legislature for disadvantaged students over the next several years. Before last year’s settlement, lawmakers had already approved a new weighted student funding system known as “Opportunity Funding,” for classroom-based support of low-income students and English-language learners.
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