Budget woes hover over new General Assembly


Budget woes hover over new General Assembly
  1. Budget woes hover over new General Assembly
    delawarepublic.org
    State lawmakers returned to Dover for the beginning of a new General Assembly amid a cloud of uncertainty and a new incoming…
    Delaware (DE)

State lawmakers returned to Dover for the beginning of a new General Assembly amid a cloud of uncertainty and a new incoming administration.

The General Assembly is facing one of the largest budget deficits that’s been projected in recent years.

Depending on whom you ask, it starts at $220 million in the hole if you want to clone the current year’s budget and continue that level of spending.

It could reach up to $350 million if you factor in some required increases and a general three percent growth across the board, according to state budget writers.

That kind of extra padding doesn’t sit well with Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley), who says any kind of new spending before solving the projected budget deficit is foolhardy.

“I hope that the building recognizes that we’re in this hole, if it’s real…but we continue to see proposals for new spending and I’m not going to sit here and suggest a solution be it tax increases, cuts, some combination there of when people are still proposing new spending,” said Lavelle. “It’s insane.”

A balanced budget proposal from outgoing Gov. Jack Markell (D) is expected later this week and lawmakers like Lavelle aren’t dropping even a crumb of possible solutions on their end.

In the past, Republicans have embraced across the board cuts to each state agency ranging from one to three percent, which incenses some like House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach).

“People around here are very quick to say, ‘We need to cut government, we need to cut government,’ and then they disappear and they don’t ever offer any ideas about what they want to cut,” Schwartzkopf said.

One potential solution that could fill in a big chunk of that projected deficit would be to rescind Delaware’s expansion of Medicaid to those in higher income brackets.

Delaware is one of 31 states that chose to take on more Medicaid enrollees, with the federal government picking up most of the tab.

Such a move would save about $100 million while dropping 10,000 people from the insurance rolls.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (R) is trying to restructure his state’s Medicaid program to bill enrollees a monthly premium and drop their coverage for at least six months if they miss a payment.

Schwartzkopf says anything like that isn’t an option.

“When you start to limit, to cut back on the expansion of Medicaid and everything, you are hurting some of the most vulnerable people in our state,” he said.

In order to help negotiate some kind of grand bargain, legislative leaders say they will revive a bipartisan talks when governor-elect John Carney takes office.

The group last regularly met in 2015 to craft a deal on infrastructure spending. Debate stretched nearly the entire six-month session before coming to a close shortly before lawmakers recessed.

House Minority leader Danny Short says he can’t promise a shorter turnaround time this year while the General Assembly faces a budget shortfall up to $350 million.

“It may take that long. I mean, sometimes it takes a deadline to get to a resolution, but I’m hopeful. We’ve got so…

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