The fiscal year 2015 budget cleared the senate Tuesday, with less than a week before the end of the legislative session.
The $3.809 billion budget is $20 million less that what Governor Jack Markell had proposed in his January recommended budget.
The budget has been a major concern of legislators this session as revenue projections we’re lower than expected.
“We started the year thinking we would have a lot more money to deal with,” explained Sen. Harris McDowell, D-Wilmington North, chair of the Joint Finance Committee.
The low revenues were met with big budget increases to the state’s two largest departments, education and health care.
“We were faced with things we didn’t have a lot of control over,” McDowell said. “We had increased Medicaid by $23.9 million and we had no choice. Our unit growth in education was $19.9 million.”
Even with the difficulties, McDowell told the Senate on Tuesday that the JFC was still able to add $7.8 million for state employee salary increases as well as $9 million for teacher step increases.
The JFC also appropriated $600,000 in Medicaid funds for a request for proposal (RFP) to try and reduce the redundancy of tests within the Medicaid system.
“What they’ve told us they can do, it can add as much as $12 million in savings a year,” McDowell said.
He said they also plan to study “measurable outcomes” in various state agencies to determine which departments are working the most efficient and which ones need improvement.
The FY 2015 budget now heads to the House for a vote.