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JFC approves $28.3 million plan for settlement money

Delaware Public Media

Democrats on the Joint Finance Committee are doling out $28.3 million in legal settlement money to fund housing, education and crime reduction initiatives over objections from Republicans.



House Republicans wrote a letter to JFC saying they aren’t being fiscally prudent by spending this money now, instead of holding it to potentially plug budget gaps, if needed. GOP lawmakers blasted the committee for doing just that last year with parts of the settlement money.

Signed by House Minority Leader Danny Short (R-Seaford) and Whip Deborah Hudson (R-Brandywine Hundred), they say there's no reason to spend the money immediately and that they should wait until the final revenue projection released in June.

"You're stepping on the gas when we should be tapping the breaks," they wrote in the letter.

Sen. Dave Lawson, a Marydel Republican, also criticized the programs for being too focused on New Castle County and Wilmington.

But co-chair Sen. Harris McDowell (D-Wilmington North) pointed out the money going toward housing and other initiatives are awarded as competitive grants.


“I don’t know how the housing apparatus of everything works, but there’s nothing in here that says [earmarking funds for New Castle County] has to happen. It all has to be applied for and the applications have to be evaluated," McDowell said.

Some from the GOP also questioned JFC’s ability to make the decision on its own, noting the constitution requires a three-quarter majority in both chambers to give state money to outside organizations.


McDowell wouldn’t commit to putting the plan into a piece of legislation.


“We’re going to put the funds available and then how that mechanism happens, we’ll look at that. We may go to a bill – we’ll probably go to a bill.”

The proposal from last week remained relatively unchanged, with Sen. Karen Peterson (D-Stanton) withdrawing her proposal to spend more cash on helping homeowners who suffered through the recent financial crisis.
Much of the money will go into buying run down properties and revitalizing them and the neighborhood in the process, as well as after school programs for Delaware students.

Other initiatives include expanding broadband internet access in Kent and Sussex Counties, as well as the state housing voucher program.

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