Joint Finance Committee begins building 2022 state budget
The Joint Finance Committee begins its process of parsing out a state budget from Gov. Carney’s recommendations.
The committee took a broad overview of Carney’s recommended budget to start assessing what changes it might want to make from the plan the governor offered last week.
Lawmakers honed in on the $35 million COVID-19 contingency fund Carney wants to set aside.
Office of Management and Budget director Cerron Cade says this extra money will help fill in the gaps in federal funding.
“These federal funds that we’re receiving currently or set to receive currently are coming in grant form and are far more restrictive than the stimulus dollars that the state received in April of this past year and so we expect there to be gaps in funding,” said Cade.
Some lawmakers are concerned the money the governor wants would basically be a blank check, since the limitations on spending it aren’t clearly defined.
Rep. Kim Williams (D-Newport) says she’d be more comfortable if the money came with stipulations of where it could be used, rather than such a broad definition.
Cade says the fund is designed to be used for things like testing, contact tracing, and vaccine distribution if needed, but will work to more clearly define where it could go.
One area Cade also touched on was proposed funding for police body-worn cameras.
“Rather than the 48 different agencies utilizing their own storage system the state would essentially invest in one main storage system that would be utilized by DOJ to check the footage and to house it,” said Cade.
State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn (R-Georgetown) said last week storing all body camera data in one place is far more cost effective and efficient than having individual law enforcement agencies handle it.
JFC also heard some public comment Tuesday with some asking for cost of living increases for those relying on state pensions. They argue some retirees are receiving pensions below the poverty line.
JFC is led by two new members after the last year’s co-chairs retired. State Sen. Trey Paradee (D-Dover) and State Rep. William Carson (D-Smyrna) now lead the committee, which holds hearings throughout February.
Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.