Calling it a highly-important piece of legislation, Gov. John Carney on Tuesday, June 30, signed into law Delaware’s $4.5 billion operating budget for the 2021 fiscal year.
Representing 2.1 percent growth, the budget includes $54 million in grants-in-aid and $708 million in the Bond & Capital Improvements Act.
During a press briefing on Tuesday, Carney signed Senate Bill 240, the State’s 2021-fiscal-year operating budget; Senate Bill 242, the State’s 2021-fiscal-year capital spending plan; and Senate Bill 260, the Grants-in-Aid bill.
The budget, Carney said, has no job reductions and no new taxes, and maintains his commitment to schools.
Mike Jackson, director of the state’s Office of Management & Budget, thanked state Sen. Harris McDowell and state Rep. Quinn Johnson, co-chairmen of the Joint Finance Committee, and praised the budget as one “all of us in public service look forward to, because it will benefit Delaware citizens.”
Reviewing highlights, Jackson said the budget appropriates 98 percent of available revenues to “give the State a cushion to fully fund the State’s Rainy Day Fund” and called it a “pretty remarkable achievement,” considering revenue losses in the 2020 fiscal year due to the coronavirus.
Other highlights include:
• $176 million for school construction, including $24.6 million for the Indian River School District, $35.7 million for Cape Henlopen and $1.5 million for Seaford.
• $75 million over three years for the Opportunity Fund, now its third year, as an investment in English language learning and children living in poverty. The third year of funding remains intact.
• $13 million for Clean Water.
• $10 million for Farmland/Open Space.
• $36 million for Strengthening Our Economy.
• $30 million for Supporting Higher Education.
• $18 million for Maintaining Public Safety.
• $63.1 million in the Budget Stabilization Fund for future uncertainty.
Carney said he was pleased that, although the fiscal year could have ended disastrously, the budget was crafted without cutting jobs.
McDowell called the budget “very good” and said committee members were “delighted because it was loaded with budget answers to make life better for Delaware residents.”
Original plans changed after the state shut down due to the coronavirus in March, resulting in a revenue shortfall.
“We went back to work. We devised … a strategy that says nobody gains, nobody loses. We sometimes call it ‘a steady state.’ We looked at what the future will bring and we could see … we needed to keep an eye on 2022, because that is potentially a tough year. We did all those things with your help and with your staff’s help.
“We can be proud of the budget we produced. There is almost no growth but there are no cuts. There are no [new] taxes, and we have maintained what we put in the budget,” McDowell said.
Johnson, who announced on Monday, June 29, that he would not seek reelection because he wants to spend more time with his family, said, “We all did not have the idea that there was going to be a global pandemic that was going to bring us those difficult economic times.” He said the state will persevere.