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Delaware lawmakers propose revamping the budget process

Delaware Public Media

Some lawmakers say they will push an amendment to the Delaware Constitution changing how the state puts together budgets.

An advisory panel that’s been meeting since last year released recommendations Tuesday to make state revenue more predictable.

The panel’s recommendations include setting a budget benchmark to control spending, converting the rainy day fund into a budget smoothing fund and reducing personal income tax deductions.

State Rep. Quinn Johnson was a member of the panel. He said there’s urgency to pass legislation this year because approval is needed in two consecutive General Assembly sessions to change the state Constitution.

“We’ve got a significant portion of revenue that is actually either declining or is not keeping up with that population growth and that revenue growth that is sustaining today,” he said.

While the rainy day fund has never been used, Johnson said the new fund could be tapped more readily in times of need.

“If we had this in place, if it was fully funded, 90 percent of all economic situations that we’ve ever encountered - we would be able to handle with this fund and not have to make significant, drastic decisions,” he said.

Johnson added there would be procedures for withdrawing funds.

State revenue numbers from March show Delaware has about $100 million in additional revenue to work with. But last year it faced a more than $300 million shortfall.

Johnson said enacting the panel’s recommendations will eliminate the need to cut funding some years and spend more in other years.

In a statement, Gov. John Carney said Delaware needs to stop drafting budgets in a bubble.

Over the long term, fixing this problem will require us to more closely align spending and revenue policies with sustainable levels of economic growth," he said. "We should finally commit to addressing our budget problems so we can get back to making investments that matter – in our schools, our communities, and our economy."

Constitutional amendments require super-majorities in each legislative chamber over two consecutive General Assembly sessions.

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