Delaware lawmakers respond to budget proposal [video]

 Gov. Jack Markell presents his FY 2017 budget plan to state lawmakers. (Paul Parmelee/WHYY)

Gov. Jack Markell presents his FY 2017 budget plan to state lawmakers. (Paul Parmelee/WHYY)

After Gov. Jack Markell delivered his $4.17 billion proposed budget Thursday afternoon, state lawmakers offered their opinions of his recommendations.

“I appreciated the conservative approach the governor has taken in regards to the budget challenges we’re facing,” said Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes.

Rep. J.J. Johnson said he agreed with many of the state salary raises in Markell’s proposed budget.

“I was pleased with the fact he did decide state employees deserve a raise,” he said. “They did address the teacher’s pay and I agree we should improve teacher’s pay.”

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Johnson said he’s concerned about the looming health care costs facing the state, and the recommendation to raise the cost of insurance for state workers.

While on a task force last summer, Johnson and the other members recommended reviewing the budget of state hospitals to possibly propose legislation that would regulate their costs.

Lopez said he agrees health care costs are a major concern for the State.

“I think we need to continue to do the math, and make sure we’re finding the most effective means and finding coverage for our state employees, but at the best numbers in regards to overall health care,” he said.

Sen. Greg Lavelle, R-Sharpley, also said it’s important to figure out ways to alleviate the strain of healthcare costs in the budget.

“The health care expense as it relates to state funding, I think it’s important to continue to educate the General Assembly about, because if you believe (the statistics) they’re not going away.”

Johnson said the state should be cautious of some new items added to the budget, including changes to corporate taxes that would incentive job creation in the state.

“We did this with the assumption it would generate income, but initially it will cost us $8 million the first year,” he said.

Lavelle said he’s interested to learn how budget items may change when other new pieces of legislation will be considered.

“We’ve seen a number of legislative proposals to spend money—one is the expanded after school services offered by Rep. Longhurst—so that interplay as we move forward will be interesting to watch.”

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