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State operating budget approved by General Assembly

Delaware Public Media

Despite objections and an attempt to amend it, state lawmakers passed a $3.9 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2016 early Wednesday morning.


The operating budget is a 2.6 percent increase over FY 2015.


Several cuts made last week to shave a few million dollars off of the spending plan have been restored – including a $1.2 million agreement with Sussex County to fund some state troopers.


To restore those cuts, the Joint Finance Committee scratched its plan to save some one-time legal settlement money to address an anticipated budget shortfall next year.


JFC used more than half of that settlement cash to reinstate those cuts, leaving a little under $29 million left over.


Rep. John Kowalko tried to amend out a budget provision allowing charter schools to use leftover transportation funds for educational purposes, but it failed.


Just before signing all three budget bills, Gov. Jack Markell (D-Delaware) said none of them came easily.


“Getting this transportation piece done was significant and I will say, compared to where we were 48 hours ago and 72 hours ago, it’s extraordinary. There was some significant uncertainty," said Markell.


House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf agreed, saying that despite the significant tension in the final week of work, it worked out in the end.


“Both sides finally, eventually came together and we tried to work it out and we came to some reasonable compromise," said Schwartzkopf. "We agreed on infrastructure, we agreed on a budget, we agreed on bond bill, we agreed on grant-in-aid and it doesn’t get any better than that.”




Six House Democrats joined three Republicans in voting against the operating budget, something rarely seen in past legislative years.

The bill passed 18-3 in the Senate.

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