Delaware House GOP offers surplus spending plan

A week after Gov. Jack Markell unveiled a three-part plan for spending Delaware’s projected $320 million surplus, House Republicans have introduced an alternative plan.

The caucus released a four-part plan Thursday at Legislative Hall in Dover to reduce state spending, fix the Transportation Trust Fund, cut taxes, and improve the state’s infrastructure.

House GOP members are asking state lawmakers to reject the governor’s plan, which includes $135 million in new spending aimed at creating jobs, and more than $54 million in tax and debt reductions to help spur economic development. In the governor’s plan, remaining revenue would target education.

“We keep hearing from the administration that they have to spend this surplus on one-time items because the revenue might not be there in the future,” said House Minority Leader Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley). “But that is just not the case.”

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House Republicans say that, according to the Office of the Controller General, about 84 percent of the surplus revenue is from continuing streams of revenue.

The first part of the plan calls for the elimination of an extra paycheck for state employees, saving Delaware $54 million. Due to a well-known quirk, every 11 or 12 years, any organization that uses a bi-weekly pay system has 27 pay periods instead of 26. That anomaly occurs next fiscal year.

Rep. Ruth Briggs King (R-Georgetown) says the extra check could be eliminated without hurting anyone.

“It needs to be stressed that every state worker gets their full annual salary every year,” she said. “No one is being shorted or cheated.”

The proposal would also cut taxes, by advancing the expiration date of three key tax hikes enacted in 2009: the gross receipts tax, personal income tax, and the Corporate Franchise Tax.

The plan would also examine the looming shortfall in the Transportation Trust Fund, which finances DelDOT’s operational budget.

Any remaining surplus would be invested in Delaware’s infrastructure and open space.

Lavelle says his party would not team up and vote against the governor’s plan, a tactic used in recent years by House Republicans.

“We stand ready to work with him to make his ideas better,” he said. “That’s our charge. We want to be honest brokers and dig beyond the headlines and look into the details and that’s what we’ve done here.”

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