Gov. John Carney’s $4.7 billion budget for 2022 includes raises for all state employees, body cameras for state police, a $50 million clean water initiative, and cash for future COVID-19 expenses that may not be covered by federal bucks.
The governor also proposed a $55 million grant-in-aid bill, which supports nonprofits and mirrors the previous budget, and a record $894 million Bond Bill, which pays for transportation, capital projects and state infrastructure. That amount had been proposed for this year, but when the pandemic slammed revenues, it was cut to $708 million for 2021.
“When I worked for then-Sen. Joe Biden, I used to always remember him saying, ‘Don’t tell me what your values are. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you want your values are,’ and I think that’s a good way of framing the importance of a budget,” Carney said Thursday morning in a virtual meeting detailing the budget.
The goals of his 2022 budget, he said, is to strengthen and rebuild the state’s economy, jobs for Delawareans, invest in schools and education, strengthening communities through public infrastructure and protecting our environment.Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 11)
Delaware Republicans said in a press conference after the budget release that they were generally happy with it, applauded several points such as support for the state’s agriculture industry, but said they wanted to see the details of how all the money would be spent.
As part of what the budget presentation called “workforce investments,” Carney will put $22.7 million toward state raises for all employees. An employee will receive $500 per year or 1 percent of the person’s salary, whichever is greater, Carney said. He praised state employees repeatedly in his Tuesday State of the State address, saying that they had all stepped up during a trying year.
Carney said Thursday morning that the raises are part of a plan to move more state employees to $15 an hour and that will cost $4.2 million this year. It will affect 261 state agency employees and 1,000 paraprofessionals in schools, said Cerron Cade, director of the state budget office. This raise will put them at $13.50 an hour, Cade said.
Raising minimum wage to $15 has been a goal of Democrats and a bill is expected to be introduced in the General Assembly to raise mimimum wage for all workers to $15 by 2026, starting with a raise from $9.25 to $11 on Jan. 1, 2022.
“The state ought to lead the way there,” Carney told reporters during an embargoed press conference Wednesday to go over the budget.
The budget also includes $22.5 million to give teachers and paraprofessionals raises. Teachers will be able to get both Carney’s raise and step raises.
“That’s baked into this,” he said.Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 11)
The budget also has another $14.5 million for step raises for education, higher education and state agencies.
The state will spend $3.6 million to buy body cameras for Delaware police, with $1.6 million going to equipment and $2 million for storage and personnel costs. Carney wants a program fully functional by 2025. Buying body cameras has been a focus the Democratic social justice agenda and was talked about before COVID-19 popped up, scuttling most of the 2020 legislative session. racial justice protests following George Floyd’s death added oomph to the game plan.
Careny said he would work with the Department of Justice, Defense Services, Department of Safety and Homeland Security to get the program up and running.
The $50 million that would establish a Clean Water Trust Fund would include $22.5 million for a Drinking Water Revolving Fund; $22.5 million for a Clean Water State Revolving Fund; and $5 million for resource. conservation and development. which will include drainage projects across the state, Carney said.Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 11)
The governor said he wanted to set aside money for COVID expenses, which have largely been paid for by federal CARES Act cash, because the newer round of federal money may be more targeted than the funds released last year. The state is not yet sure how the new funds will work.
Last year, Delaware got $965 million in CARES Act money to spend as it wanted. It fell largely into four big buckets, Carney said: $238 million for the Unemployment Trust Fund, $178 million for DE Relief Grans for Small Businesses, $135 million for the Childcare Assistance Program and $132 million for testing and contact tracing programs. Some of the money also went to helping pay rent for those who lost their jobs because of COVID-19.
“We’re not getting money directly as we did with the first CARES Act … where we could allot it to the programs we saw fit,” Carney aid.
“My understanding of what we’re getting now is resources that are targeted directly for education or schools or directly for vaccinations, that type of thing,” Carney said. “So once we figure that out, we’ll have a better idea of what … we might need the $30 million for.”
The proposed 2022 budget includes items Carney wanted to fund in this year’s budget, including investing more in schools, economic programs and clean water initiatives, but had to cut because of the revenue shortfall.Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 11)
The budgets must be approved by tw0-thirds of the Delaware General Assembly by midnight June 30 because the 2022 budget takes effect July 1.
Delaware budgets are largely based on forecasts by the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council according to several rules, include less than 98 percent of the revenues may be budgeted and that the budget can only grow 3.5 percent under a formula determined by personal income growth over three years, government inflation and population growth.
The council meets five times a year to look at revenue and expenses and make predictions. When it met in December, it was projecting a $347 million surplus. Some of that surplus money is earmarked to go in a reserve fund.
DEFAC will meet again in May to look at final numbers, and they can change as they did in 2020 under the pressure from COVID-19.
Among other things, the 2022 budget proposal would put $68 million back into a reserve fund that the state accessed to help with the COVID-19 revenue shortfalls in the current budget. Among other things, those reserves helped the state avoid layoffs that other states were forced to implement, Carney said. The new money will bring the reserve fund back to $131 million.
Here are some of the additional details:
- $185 million for school construction and renovation, including $70 million in Wilmington, where a new school will be built; $31.4 in the growing Appoquinimink School District; $34.2 million in the Capital School District; $14.2 million in the Cape Henlopen School District; and $34.6 million in the Indian River district.
- $15 million for school building deferred maintenance.
- Another $10 million to Opportunity Funding, which gives schools more money for low-income students, English learners and mental health support, bringing it to $25.5 million. That raise is part of a settlement in a lawsuit over state school funding and requires the legislature to approve the expenditures. It will bring the program to $38 million. The goal is to raise Opportunity Funding to $60 million by 2025, which would double the funding from where it was in 2020.
- Doubling the funding for the Early Childhood Assistance program and raising the funding for K-3 basic special education, with plans to raise the K-3 to full funding in 2023.
- Spending $750,000 on a county ombudsperson who would provide nonlegal help with discipline issues or access to programs.
- $3 million to replace federal funding for mental health support because the program is expiring.
- Investing $20 million in school programs, with $2.4 million of that set aside for enrollment growth.
- $30 million for deferred maintenance, capital improvements and technology upgrades at the University of Delaware, Delaware State University and Delaware Technical Community College.
- $15 million for the Higher Education Economic Development Investment Fund to improve job growth and economic development.
- $1.1 million to expand University of Delaware scholarship funds for low-income resident students.
- $752,200 Delaware State University’s social work program, the state’s only accredited social work program.
- $1 million to DelTech’s Career Pathways program, designed partly to give students real-life experience in jobs.
- $769,500 as part of a compensation stabilization plan to stop faculty and staff from quitting at DelTech.
- $12.5 million for the state’s share of Medicaid and $2 million to the Children’s Health Insurance Program to replace money cut by the feds.
- $810,000 to expand the Delaware Treatment Referral Network, withdrawal management services and syringe distribution. It will add 15 new providers and aid Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall Long’s Behavior Health Consortium.
- $3.5 million to fund supports for the aging and those with disabilities.
- $500,000 to create a Health Care Provider State Loan Repayment Program that will help attract doctors, nurses and others to Delaware.
Safety and Security
- $50 million to build the long-planned Kent and Sussex counties Family Court facilities, with the Sussex one expected to start in summer and Kent a few months later. The buildings will be just alike, and the programs will allow a team that finishes its part of the building at Sussex to move to Kent and complete the same job there. The Sussex courthouse is expected to open two years after work starts, and the Kent building about two and one-half years afterward.
- $3 million to match $18 million in federal funds to expand the state Public Health laboratory.
- $482,000 to increase staffing and operating costs for the Division of Forensic services.
- $8.3 million for public safety communications.
- $3.5 million for Troop 6 in Price’s Corner.
- $2.1 million for renovations of the Howard R. Young Correctional Center infirmary.
- $1.5 million for the Volunteer Fire Service Revolving Loan Fund.
Small business and infrastructure
- $20 million to Strategic Fund investments to support jobs in Delaware.
- $2 million to the Delaware Prosperity Partnership.
- $8 million for research collaboration.
- $10 million to create Graduation Lab Space, allowing science and technology startups a way to outfit spaces to grow into.
- $15 million to the Higher Education Economic Development Fund.
- $10 million for the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Fund.
- $10 million to create a Site Readiness Fund that would help new businesses improve the locations on which they want to build.
Building strong communities
- $4 million to the Strong Neighborhoods Housing Fund.
- $6 million to affordable housing programs.
- $5.5 million to Downtown Development Districts.
- $8 million to preserving historical and recreational sites.
- $2.75 million for libraries.
- $1 million for Purpose Built Communities.
Protecting natural resources
- $10 million to open space programs.
- $10 million to farmland preservation.
- $5 million to beach preservation.
- $2.9 million to cover crop programs.
- $1.7 million to conservation cost share programs.
- $500 to Delaware Bayshore.
- $34.9 million to minor capital improvements and deferred maintenance for state agencies.
- $6.7 million for improvements on the Herman Holloway Campus.
- $1.3 million for Fire Training/Fire School improvements.
- $800,000 for mechanical upgrades at the Carvel State Office Building.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience.
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