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JFC budget markup begins with debate over McNesby Act funding

Roman Battaglia
Delaware Public Media

State lawmakers begin pulling together the final version of next year’s budget.


The Joint Finance Committee Tuesday spent the first day of budget markup primarily passing the non-controversial changes and determining which need more examination.


One department drawing scrutiny is the Department of Health and Social Services, and specifically, its commitment to fully fund intellectual and developmental disabilities support professionals as required by the McNesby Act.


The changes in funding only provide around $12 million in new funds for Direct Support Professionals. State Sen. Laura Sturgeon (D-Brandywine West) says that’s not enough.


“The $11.8 million for the direct support professionals does not actually bring them up to 85.2% of the benchmark of the 2019 rate study. So I have some concerns around that,” Sturgeon said.


Sturgeon points to a 2019 rate study, which examines how much funding the state would need to provide to fund contractors based on the McNesby Act.


It found the state would need an additional $40 million to meet that benchmark, and around $17 million to meet just 80 percent of that.


DHSS didn't ask for additional funding to meet that benchmark in their initial ask in February, which concerned lawmakers seeking to fully fund the act.


The committee placed that section on hold.  It also avoided voting on Department of Education funding. State Sen. Elizabeth Lockman (D-Wilmington) is seeking more money to meet Redding Consortium recommendations.


“I just wanted to acknowledge the recommendations of the Redding Consortium and my hope that as we deliberate over the next week that we’d like to see some of those reflected in the Department of Education’s budget and other agency’s budgets,” she said.


JFC approved some funding increases, including more money to launch a statewide body camera program and pay increases for Capitol police security officers, which JFC co-chair Trey Paradee (D-Dover) says is desperately needed.


It also looked at various possibilities for spending the surplus of funds available since Gov. Carney unveiled his recommended budget.


Some lawmakers, like Lockman, want education funding boosts, while others suggest funding programs addressing youth employment, homeless shelters and truck regulation.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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