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Legislature’s finance committee begins budget mark-up

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Dover (AP) — Legislative budget writers are staring down a significant hole as they begin work on a new spending plan.

The Joint Finance Committee was told Wednesday that there is a $75.3 million gap between available revenue for next year and Gov. Jack Markell’s proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. The gap is largely due to lower estimates for income tax revenue, but it also includes unexpected funding needs for Medicaid, prison health care, and legal representation for criminal defendants.

Committee co-chair Sen. Harris McDowell said he’s never seen a funding gap that high at the start of the budget mark-up process.

Meanwhile, analysts told lawmakers that lower fuel and energy prices should net about $1.3 million in savings compared to previous estimates.

The committee resumes work Thursday.

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