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Grant-in-aid balanced with settlement cash

Delaware Public Media

The Joint Finance Committee finalized Delaware’s grant-in-aid budget early Tuesday evening on the back of one-time settlement money previously set aside for future projected deficits.

The proposed $2.38 million cut to the bill was covered by a portion of settlements with Bank of America, Citigroup and Standard & Poor’s after a unanimous vote from JFC.

Another $5 million to cover DelDOT operating costs that legislators are using to sway a GOP vote for a $23.9 million infrastructure package is still sitting unallocated, signaling a possible deal is still possible in the 11th hour before legislators recess for the year.

Negotiations over that have continued, despite Republicans voting down the bill last week. Democrats reneged on one term of the deal before the vote, cutting the amount of cash dedicated toward DelDOT operating costs in half from $10 million.

"I don't believe there's any intention to put $10 million back on the table," said co-chair Sen. Harris McDowell (D-Wilmington North).

State lawmakers are mum about its chances. The backlog of projects totals $780 million according to DelDOT.

Republicans have threatened to torpedo the state’s proposed capital budget in its current form due to disputes over language allowing DNREC to administratively raise fees for programs not related to hunting, fishing or trapping.

GOP legislators had also urged using that settlement money, which adds up to $61 million, to further fund road projects, but JFC instead favored using it to address next year’s projected funding deficit and plug other budget holes.

"Right now, we're sticking as close to our pledge as we can to reserve that money for the needs that we know are going to be enormous next year," McDowell said.

Dozens of union workers from several trades packed the first floor of Legislative Hall to urge Republicans to relent and pass the infrastructure funding bill that was defeated last week.

Earlier in the day, two demonstrations took place on opposite sides of Legislative Hall, one calling for a more progressive income tax and also supporting further funding for public works projects.

On the west side of the state capitol, two men in chicken suits bearing signs criticizing Democrats for “clucking” with the budget, bearing the tag line of the state Republican Party.

Lawmakers will continue to meet throughout the night.

This is a developing story. Please check back frequently for updates.

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