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    Del. governor signs budget

    Delaware lawmakers have finally gone home after a long night — and early morning — of voting on the budget bill.

    Delaware has a new operating budget for fiscal year 2011, which begins today.

    The governor signed the budget bill at about 2:45 a.m. Thursday. The $3.3 billion budget was approved by the House (27-13 vote) just before midnight Wednesday and the Senate (16-4) on Tuesday.

    Gov. Jack Markell (D-Delaware) says the budget funds important priorities such as hiring more teachers and creating new jobs.

    It also restores a 2.5 percent pay cut for state employees that was needed to help balance last year’s budget.

    “For a lot of folks on the bottom of the pay scale that money meant a lot to them,” said Rep. Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington South). “And it was very important in these struggling times to give that back to them.”

    Markell described the budget as fiscally responsible.

    “It represents $48.9 million of cuts,” he said. “It represents fewer people on the state payroll.”

    But many lawmakers say the cuts didn’t go deep enough. House Minority Leader Richard Cathcart (R-Middletown), and others, called it a missed opportunity to trim state government. Cathcart couldn’t figure out how a budget that was supposed to feature so many cuts actually grew by 6.5 percent.

    “It’s one thing to say we’re going to cut the size of state government,” he said. “But it’s a completely different thing to actually do it.”

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