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Lawmakers react to Gov. Markell's budget plan

Delaware Public Media

Lawmakers in both sides of the aisle are digesting Gov. Jack Markell’s proposed $4.1 billion spending plan.

House Minority Leader Daniel Short (R-Seaford) says that even with a rosier revenue picture its unlikely Markell will get everything he wants.  Short says that’s in part because lawmakers are already lining up with their own spending ideas.

“There’s a multitude of bills that are in the mill over across the street that have price tags ranging from 10 million to 1.8.  I mean, they’re all over the place.  And those things are in addition to what we heard today because they’re not in included in that," said Short.  "So, when you really get down to the end result that occurs in June, it’s going to be a lot different that what we see today.”

State Rep. Paul Baumbach (D-Newark), who voted against last year’s budget, also has questions.  He wants to know what role remaining one-time settlement money will play in the budget process.  He also has concerns about revenue lost in the just passed corporate tax reform bill.

“When the Delaware Competes, now law, came through the House, both in committee and on the House floor I raised that this is a give back to corporations and it needs to be paid for," said Baumbach. "I didn’t see that being paid for in the Governor’s budget.”

Delaware Public Media's Tom Byrne interview State Rep. Paul Baumbach about Gov. Markell's proposed 2017 budget

But the strongest opposition to Markell's budget proposal may come over his plans to reign in the cost of state employee health benefits.

Legislators generally agree with Markell that something needs to be done, but also see implementing the governor’s plan to raise premiums and put new employees on Health Saving Accounts being a heavy lift.

Still, Baumbach believes something can happen this year

“The governor’s proposed one set of changes that can help out and solve it.  We’ll probably wind up with something similar, but not identical – pull a little bit here and push a little bit there," said Baumbach. "These are big changes, but think everyone should have been on notice that changes were coming.”

Baumbach adds Markell’s proposed pay raise for state employees might make health benefits changes more palatable, but Short isn’t so sure.

“Our state employees are pretty sharp.  So, they’re probably looking at the premium increase, looking at the one percent [pay raise], and looking at the net to see where they really are.  That’s what’s going to make a difference for many folks,” said Short.

Short was also pleased to see Markell put money toward economic development – including 10 million to the Strategic Fund – though he’d like to see that money go more toward infrastructure rather than incentives to companies.

Baumbach applauded Markell setting aside money to implement Wilmington school redistricting, making sure residents in the Red Clay district – which will be absorbing many students – are stuck with the bill.

Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for three decades. He joined Delaware Public Media in 2010 as our first news director and has guided the news team ever since. When he's not covering the news, he can be found reading history or pursuing his love of all things athletic.