The Senate and the House of Representatives have approved the state’s FY2020 $4.45 billion operating budget and budgetary supplemental bill yesterday. And Governor Carney has already signed it. There was only one no vote on it in the entire General Assembly. Guess who? Colin Bonini.
Here are some highlights from the budget:
- Pay Raises for State Employees. Teachers will see 2 percent increases in their pay, while most other non-collectively bargained workers will get an extra $1000. This is a good thing. Our teachers need to be paid more so we attract good teachers to the state. Our teachers and state employees bore the brunt of cuts from the Great Recession budget constraints over the last 10 years. They all deserve raises. And you get the government you pay for. Want good workers? Then pay them well.
- Increase in spending of 4.2% over last year’s budget, or $190 Million more in operating expenses (that figure includes one time supplemental expenses like buying new equipment).
- $37.5 million for students who come from impoverished areas and don’t speak English as a native language. Much of this is one time outlays. So hopefully this spending will bear good results so that the spending becomes dedicated.
- $1.6 million more for basic special education for students in kindergarten or first, second or third grade.
- $1.3 million for scholarships for University of Delaware students
- $4.2 million for caregivers of adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
- $78 million for an unofficial future budget stabilization fund (bringing the total amount in the reserve to $125 million). I oppose Carney’s hopes for a Constitutional Amendment establishing a Budget Smoothing Fund that Republicans will have a veto over whether it is ever tapped for budgetary emergencies. I have no problem with a reserve fund like this that the General Assembly can tap through a simple majority vote. That’s fine. Though we could spend some of this on Education.
“This is a budget all Delawareans can be proud of,” said Sen. Harris McDowell, D-Wilmington, who co-chairs the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee.
“HB 225 provides education funding to students who need it the most, adds reading interventionists and school counselors to schools throughout the state, expands access to college for hundreds of Delaware families, improves care for people with disabilities, gives raises to our hard-working state employees and puts aside money for the future,” he said. “Putting together a budget of this size is no easy feat and I want to thank my colleagues on the Joint Finance Committee for working so hard to address some long-standing equity issues and advanced the ball on key priorities that will benefit some of our most vulnerable populations.
The following are problems with the budget.
- The budget allows charter schools to keep leftover transportation funds provided by the state. State law requires charters to return excess funds to the state, but the Joint Finance Committee has gone around that through a section in the budget for nearly 10 years. Representative Kowalko once again tried to strip that language from the JFC but that amendment failed.
- Needs more dedicated education spending, not just one time payments.
- Our tax rates are flat and un-progressive. The top income tax rate applies to incomes over $60,000, meaning someone making a median middle class income pays the same exact tax rate as someone making a wealthy income of $600,000 or $6,000,000. This needs to change.