Joint Finance Committee quickly wraps up budget mark-up
Members of the Joint Finance Committee finished up the budget mark-up process Wednesday.
Lawmakers squeezed what was expected to be a two week process down into two days, and approved the changes to the governor’s recommended budget Wednesday.
Included in those changes were some lawmakers had been advocating for. State Sen. Elizabeth Lockman (D-Wilmington) secured a little over $10 million in funds for the Redding Consortium recommendations, a group she co-chairs.
$3 million of those dollars will be permanent, while the rest is one-time funding to help get some of the programs off the group, like high-need pre-K and other programs targeted at high needs schools in Wilmington.
“Really what the three million in operating is about is a signal that we do intend to bake this into operating funds in full as we begin to roll out the work and show that we’re being effective in supporting vulnerable students that the Redding Consortium is concerned to see better served,” Lockman said.
This funding was added in between the two mark up sessions. Lockman says many of the changes to the budget happen behind the scenes, and there were ongoing conversations from when the committee held public hearings back in February.
Lawmakers are pleased overall with the changes made, with a few exceptions.
State Sen. Laura Sturgeon (D-Hockessin) highlighted the low amount of funding for child care centers, saying advocates are calling for much more.
“I’m afraid we’re sending the message that the state is not committed to ongoing funding for childcare and that they’re gonna be digging themselves into a bigger hole long term,” Sturgeon said.
Sturgeon says childcare providers sought for $60 million to fully meet their benchmark levels, and the state is only allocating $5 million.
Office of Management and Budget director Cerron Cade says the state is committed to increasing funds for providers, but that process takes time. He says adding $60 million to one line-item would be irresponsible.
He also notes federal Coronavirus relief funds earmark around $200 million for childcare programs statewide, which will help support centers struggling right now.
Another change the committee made was adding additional funds for the McNesby Act. JFC co-chair William Carson (D-Smyrna) says budget drafters made a mistake in calculating the funds needed for direct support professionals, and the committee allocated the full $17 million needed to meet the promised benchmark.
The committee approved the operating budget bill and the one time supplemental bill, which will undergo final checks before being introduced in the House in mid June.