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Lawmakers kick off budget hearings in Dover

Delaware Public Media

Legislators on the Joint Finance Committee got a more detailed look at Delaware’s projected $350 million budget problem Tuesday.

Growth in how the state funds school enrollment and Medicaid were among the top topics of discussion among the Joint Finance Committee, amid a gloomy budget climate.

Delaware pays districts a certain amount of money based on how many students enroll in public schools and whether they need special services using what it calls a unit count

Enrollment increases add up to tens of millions of dollars each year in required spending.

State budget director Mike Jackson says any changes made to save money there would affect the student-to-teacher ratio.

“I think it would be difficult to have a fix or a solution that impacts unit count given the fact that it will end up impacting class size,” Jackson said.

A third of Delaware’s $4.1 billion budget is spent on education, with $28 million of new spending set aside for enrollment growth this coming year.

JFC will delve into the entire education budget Wednesday morning.

The state’s share for next year’s Medicaid program totals $765 million – up $13 million from this year.

Should Congress repeal an expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, Delaware would have to add $100 million onto what it already pays.

“I think that that would be a significant budget challenge for us that would be on top of the existing challenge that we have today,” Jackson said.

Deliberations in D.C. are still ongoing.

Since 2009, the monthly average of those eligible for public health insurance increased by nearly 57,000.

Only about 10,000 of those enrollees qualify through the program’s expansion that went into effect in 2014.

Gov. John Carney (D) will submit his proposed budget following the next round of revenue projections in late March.

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