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GOP lawmakers give Carney budget mixed reviews

House and Senate Republican leaders weigh in on Gov. Carney's proposed budget.
House and Senate Republican leaders weigh in on Gov. Carney's proposed budget.

Republican lawmakers see a lot to like in Gov. Carney’s proposed budget - but also say there’s one significant omission.

They praise Carney’s conservative approach, saying they understand the state’s key revenue streams are also its most volatile and laud Carney for limiting spending growth to 4.6%.

They also support addressing long-standing issues like maintenance of state buildings. Carney is proposing to spend $45 million on deferred maintenance and technology upgrades at the University of Delaware, Delaware State University and Delaware Tech Community College. The members also applaud the governor for setting aside $30 million for open space and farmland preservation.

But they say he’s not doing enough to address inflation.

Republicans proposed a series of tax cuts that Senate Minority Leader Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View) says repay taxpayers for being there for the state in lean times.

"Now we have a surplus and I didn't hear him say anything where he’s going to go back to taxpayers and thank them for contributing to the state’s economy when it was needed and now we’re going to help them and give it back," he said.  

Republicans' plan would cut the state’s personal and corporate income taxes, the real estate transfer tax and more. Another measure would adjust tax brackets to keep up with cost-of-living increases.

The latest revenue projections show $820 million more than expected, but Carney administration officials say the volatility of where that surplus comes from is why they aren’t suggesting tax cuts.

State Sen. Ruth Briggs King (R-Georgetown) says there are also concerns about Carney’s plan to raise state employee wages.

"I think it’s sort of hard for some Delawareans to - when they see a move from the state to make all state employees $15 an hour minimum wage and they’re not there yet.  And so technically, our working families are paying for increases for workers in the state so I look for some type of equity if you will there," she said.  

Briggs-King adds she’d also like to see more relief for business owners - especially if a paid family leave bill crosses the finish line. That measure cleared a senate committee Wednesday.

Rebecca Baer comes Delaware Public Media from The Florida Channel in Tallahassee where she covered state government and produced documentary features for the series, Florida Crossroads.