What are lawmakers thinking ahead of budget markup?
State lawmakers begin drafting the 2022 budget next week, and they have plenty of extra funds to work with.
The General Assembly takes another two week break for the Joint Finance Committee to mark-up next year’s budget.
And after this week’s Delaware Financial Advisory Council meeting, lawmakers are looking at an extra $750 million in funds to spend since Gov. Carney offered his recommended budget in January.
But from JFC co-chair Trey Paradee’s (D-Dover) perspective, Delawareans shouldn’t expect permanent funding boosts to programs. Much of surplus revenue is from cyclical sources such as Realty Transfer taxes, that lawmakers can’t rely on year after year.
“I think we’re gonna have the opportunity to do a lot of really wonderful one time spending type of initiatives,” Paradee said. “But we have to be very careful not to build in a lot of recurring expenses like recurring programs that could end up putting us in a difficult spot a year, two or three years down the road.”
State financial advisors agree, saying while these extra funds mean Delaware’s economy is in great shape coming out of the pandemic, lawmakers should be cautious to avoid overspending.
But not all lawmakers are excited to spend this surplus. State Rep. Rich Collins (R-Millsboro) introduced a bill slashing the state’s income, corporate and gross receipts taxes.
He says surpluses like this one lead to bad spending.
“Everybody knows the pot of gold is sitting here,” Collins says. “You’re gonna see the most irresponsible spending the state has ever engaged in if we don’t give some of it back to the taxpayers.”
But Paradee argues tax cuts would cause more harm than good for the state economy, and possibly jeopardize the great position the state is in coming out of the pandemic.
Paradee adds Delaware is already one of the lowest taxed states. Only Alaska households pay a lower percentage of state and local taxes than Delaware according to a Wallethub survey.
The JFC is full of lawmakers with varying agendas, such as State Sen. Elizabeth Lockman (D-Wilmington), who is seeking to fund the education recommendations from the Redding Consortium she co-chairs. Paradee says mark-up this year will be a big challenge.