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State revenue forecast up $43 million as budget planning for 2020 begins

Delaware Public Media

The Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council (DEFAC) offered its first revenue estimate as planning for the 2020 budget cycle begins.

DEFAC is forecasting state lawmakers will have about $4.65 billion to work with for the fiscal year 2020 budget.

The council estimates the state has $43 million more this year than anticipated and projects $34 million additional dollars in 2020. The new money comes from a combination of higher revenue estimates and legislative changes.

Finance Secretary Rick Geisenberger says that includes $91 million lawmakers may decide to save instead of spend. Gov. John Carney signed an executive order creating a budget smoothing fund in July. But he can’t make lawmakers use it.

“So, there’ll be a recommendation every December and every May for the governor and the legislature to use in developing the budget,” Geisenberger said.

A proposed Constitutional amendment converting the state’s rainy day reserve into a budget smoothing fund was shelved by Democrats earlier this year.

Geisenberger also said sales from legalized sports betting have been stronger than initially expected. But he argues lowering the tax rate for casinos was still the right move.

“Now in the near-term, without competition from Pennsylvania and Maryland there’s a lot more betting going on," he said. "Whether that can be sustained when you have full-scale competition from Pennsylvania and Maryland, I think the jury’s out on that.”

Lawmakers passed casino tax relief earlier this year. Geisenberger said they estimated the state would lose about $16.8 million in 2020. But new self-service kiosks in stores selling lottery tickets and sports betting are offsetting part of that anticipated loss.

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