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Delaware deserves better from budget process

July 13, 2017

Two weeks have passed since Delaware's General Assembly, in an extraordinary special session, passed a $4.1 billion state budget for the July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018 fiscal year.

With tax increases and program cuts, it's a budget that predictably has left few people happy.

Two aspects of this year's session stand out as particularly disturbing. Forget Democrat and Republican; all legislators and the administration need to take ownership.

First, the special session in itself. Yes, it ultimately produced a budget, but every legislator paying attention and cashing their paychecks representing $45,000-plus for their part-time work knew all of the issues in play since January - primarily that the state faced a $400 million budget shortfall that had to be addressed. That's unquestionably a big nut to crack, but there's no justification for not getting those wrinkles ironed out before June 30.

Special sessions aren't free. They cost thousands in regular and overtime pay for administrative staff needed to keep Legislative Hall open beyond the June 30 deadline.

This is a check in the negative column for the governor and the legislative leaders.

Second, every legislator knew the prevailing wage issue represented a serious division in the ranks. That law dictates regional pay grades for construction workers on government-funded projects. Typically those wages are 20 percent or more higher than those paid by contractors on non-government projects. That translates into double-digit hikes in costs of schools - hundreds of millions of dollars each year - and other government facilities. Those inflated wages weigh heavily on the budget.

The whole system clearly needed analysis going into this year's legislative session, as it has for years, but it keeps getting put off. That contributed significantly to the deadlock resulting in the special session.

When it comes to balancing a budget with a $400 million shortfall, there should be no untouchables.

Delaware deserves better than what it got from its elected officials in 2017.

 

 

  • Cape Gazette editorials are considered and written by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Laura Ritter, news editor; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; and Nick Roth, sports editor.