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Further budget decisions will wait until next month

Delaware Public Media

Joint Finance Committee members are waiting to see if the state’s fiscal situation improves in June before making significant cuts to the governor’s recommended budget.

The group recessed Tuesday after axing $18.3 million during a four-day stretch of meetings.

One of the biggest single cuts came at the expense of Gov. Jack Markell’s (D) proposal to cement aspects of the Race to the Top initiative into the budget – including highly paid administrators. The bulk of the money comes from smaller pots of cash that includes eliminating entire programs, but mostly from reducing spending based on state projections.

Sen. Harris McDowell (D-Wilmington North), a JFC co-chair, says there are many moving parts to consider that could add millions of dollars to their bottom line.

One item would be moving $10 million of DelDOT operating costs to the general fund from the Transportation Trust Fund, a move promised by House Democrats to appeal to Republicans as they move forward with an infrastructure spending plan. 

“Do we put the $10 million back in the Transportation Trust Fund, or do we put it in the budget?" said McDowell. "Those are questions that are still in the air depending on how much revenue there is and what other members of the General Assembly besides this committee have a stomach to do.”

That work leaves them $64.7 million short of the governor’s recommended budget, but McDowell says that could contract or expand based on what aspects of Markell's proposal they keep.

“It’s so long I can’t count that many dollars, so I just have to say it’s a long way.”

He and others continue to balk at using $61 million in one-time settlement money born out of the 2008 financial crisis to cover ongoing costs.

JFC will reconvene next week for a summary of their work over the past four days. Final cuts will begin June 22.

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