Delaware GOP critical of Markell’s 2016 budget

The Delaware Republican Party described Governor Jack Markell’s 2016 spending plan as “nothing more than a shell game.” 

“Much like his State of the State Address last week, Governor Markell’s 2016 budget proposal is not a serious plan designed to help restore Delaware’s economy,” Charlie Copeland, Delaware GOP chairman, said in a statement released Thursday evening. 

Markell’s $3.9 billion budget proposal reflected a 2.37 percent increase, making for a “very difficult budget,” according to the governor.

Senate Republican Leader Gary Simpson, R-Milford, said, “The governor complained about not having enough money in the budget, yet we grew our budget from approximately $3.1 billion from when he came into office to $3.9 billion this year. That is a gigantic increase over a six-year period, and I really don’t think they’re doing enough in his administration to trim expenses.”

One way to trim expenses, Markell proposed, was to reduce the state senior property tax subsidy from $500 or 50 percent of school taxes, whichever is less, for those over the age of 65 to $250 or 25 percent. The reduction is expected to save the state $12.6 million.

But Copeland warned the move will ultimately result in higher taxes.

“What the Governor calls cuts to the subsidy that assists seniors with property taxes will only shift the burden back to school districts, causing new property tax increases for struggling Delaware families,” Copeland said. “At the end of the day, the governor simply went through the motions today, and is going to make the legislators do the hard work.”

In his State of the State, Markell renewed his push to invest in infrastructure improvement. Markell, at the time, asked state lawmakers to bring him ideas on how to fund road improvement projects responsibly, since they rejected a gas tax increase last session. 

“The governor spends a great deal of time talking about Delaware’s failing transportation infrastructure, yet he plans to once again raid the State’s Transportation Infrastructure Fund to cover his deficit. Either transportation infrastructure is or it is not important,” Copeland said. “If it is, he needs to use the funds set aside to improve Delaware’s roads and bridges for their intended purpose.” 

“It continues to reflect an overall economy that’s not growing enough. We have offered, on several occasions, numerous ideas to strengthen Delaware’s economy, through modifications in the prevailing wage and right-to-work laws that have succeeded in other states in attracting quality, high-paying jobs,” state Senate Republican Whip Greg Lavelle, R-Sharpley, said. 

The budget proposal is now in the hands of the state’s Joint Finance Committee. The budget must be approved by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.