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Delaware House passes FY21 operating budget

Tom Byrne
Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s Fiscal Year 21 operating budget is heading to Gov. John Carney’s desk.  House lawmakers passed the $4.52 billion spending plan in a 40-1 vote Wednesday.

The State Senate passed it Tuesday by and 20-1 vote.

State Rep. Quinn Johnson (D-Middletown)is co-chair of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee.  He said Delaware’s pared down budget still puts it in a better position than most states 

“We’re able to pass a balanced budget with zero increase taxes, zero state employees being furloughed, zero pay cuts, zero increase cost to benefits and most importantly zero decrease services provide to the citizens of Delaware,” Johnson said.  “No mistake, the road ahead is still going to be challenging.  There could not have been any greater challenge that could have that proves the discipline of our budget process works.

Johnson called the budget process challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  He noted this year's spending plan is only about two percent bigger than the current fiscal year.

“This increase is only due to what we call “door-openers”, expenditures that we must do every single year.  However, it holds every other department spending at the Fiscal Year 2020 spending level,” Johnson said.  “In doing so, we were successful in making sure that no programs or services were reduced or cut.  A tremendous accomplishment in this environment.”

Johnsons said “door-openers” include funding collective bargaining agreements, step increases, K through 12 enrollment growth, and school transportation.  He added that Delaware maintained its Triple-A bond rating.

State Rep. Rich Collins was the lone “no” vote. The Millsboro Republican cited what he calls Gov. Carney’s overreach during the pandemic as his reason.

In a statement, Carney commended lawmakers for approving the operating budget.

"Despite significant revenue challenges related to the COVID-19 crisis, we intended to protect critical investments in public education, and to protect the jobs and livelihoods of Delaware’s state workers. This budget will do just that," said Carney in his statement. "We are not laying off state employees, or cutting their benefits. State workers have been on the front lines of this crisis, and we owe them our gratitude. We will also continue investments to support students and educators statewide through our Opportunity Funding program. This program supports students living in poverty, and students who are still learning English. I can’t think of a more important investment in Delaware’s future."

Carney aslso encouraged lawmakers to pass the Grant-in-Aid and Bond Bills.

Those bills stalled in the State Senate Tuesday after Republican lawmakers voiced concerns over receiving the bills late and lack of public input.