[caption id="attachment_188115" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Delaware lawmakers have approved a $4.7 billion Fiscal Year 2022 budget along with a $222 million one-time spending appropriation.| DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
DOVER – The Delaware General Assembly has passed a $4.77 billion operating budget and a $221 million one-time expenditures measure for Fiscal Year 2022, sending both bills to Gov. John Carney, who is expected to sign them by June 30, the deadline to enact the annual state budget.The Fiscal Year 2022 operating budget outlined in House Bill 250 exceeds the current budget by more than $200 million, a nearly 5% increase. State Sen. Trey Paradee (D-Dover) said Delaware now has $538 million saved in budget stabilization and the state’s “Rainy Day” fund."Even with the turbulence of the past year, we managed to carefully track revenue forecasts and fund much-needed programs and projects, all while keeping budget growth below 5%,” Paradee said in a statement Thursday.Notable expenses include $5.2 million to implement a statewide body-worn camera program for police officers, a one-time bonus of $1,000 and a $500 pay raise for all state employees, $20 million to cover projected state employee health insurance costs, and more than $6 million for small business programs, such as Delaware Small Business Development Center and Main Street.“This is a responsible, sustainable financial plan that protects taxpayer dollars and invests in the future of our state,” Carney said in a statement about the budget bills. “We’re adding to our budget reserves so we’ll again be ready if we face a crisis or revenue downturn. And we’re investing in our state workers, who have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic since Day 1. I look forward to signing this budget soon.”The state is also expanding funds for Delaware students, including:
$22 million in additional education Opportunity Funds for students in low-income families and whose first language is not English
$16 million for student mental health services
$10.2 million for the Redding Consortium to advance educational equity for students in Wilmington and northern New Castle County.
$4.3 million toward expansion of SEED and Inspire scholarships
“In this budget, we’re investing more than ever in our classrooms, and in direct services for low-income students and English learners,” Carney said in a statement. “These are the children who need our help the most.”Carney also revived a $10 million business-focused initiative after it was cut from last year’s budget due to an unexpected pandemic-spurred deficit.Senate Bill 127 would create the Site Readiness Fund to provide grants, loans or other economic assistance to businesses or public entities that invest in constructing, renovating, or improving infrastructure for sites that would attract job-creating projects.Michael Quaranta, president of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, called the Site Readiness Fund a “smart, strategic step to take,” especially when considering how it could help companies and developers to consider rehabbing existing properties.The General Assembly passed SB127, sending the bill to Carney for his consideration.Carney’s recommended annual bond bill totals just over $894.3 million, an increase of nearly 21%, or $186.4 million, compared to FY 2021. It would include $377 million for transportation-related projects and $517 million for other needs, such as educational facilities and environmental funding.Under Senate Bill 50, the state would give $10 million in new funding to Laboratory Space, which would incentivize colleges, universities and the private sector to develop lab space in Delaware for startup companies to move into. That fund had been cut from the current budget due to pandemic-related constraints. The Delaware Public Health Lab is also expected to receive $3 million for renovations and expansions.Per SB 50, the Delaware Strategic Fund is set to increase by $5.75 million in FY2022, totalling $20 million, which had been Carney’s fund goal for the current year.Neither the bond bill nor the grant-in-aid bill, which funds the state’s nonprofits, for FY 2022 has been voted on in the General Assembly, giving lawmakers just days to pass the legislation by Wednesday’s deadline.