Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s plan focuses on education and jobs.
The Fiscal Year 2013 budget that was unveiled this afternoon in Dover is just 1.025% larger than the 2012 budget. Markell’s $3.54 billion spending plan does not include any tax increases or new taxes of any kind. “Budgets are about priorities, and this budget makes clear that our top priorities are encouraging economic growth, making our public schools stronger, and ensuring that we are governing responsibly,” Markell said. You can find a link to the Governor’s budget presentation on the state’s website.
Following up on his State of the State pledge to create the “workforce of tomorrow”, Markell’s budget focuses some new spending on education. The plan includes money to hire 111 new teachers for the 2012-2013 school year at a cost of $8.7 million. “Great schools are an important factor in our ability to attract new jobs to Delaware now. Great schools that graduate kids who are ready to succeed in work or college are critical to our state’s – and those kids’ – economic future,” Markell said. He wants $8.8 million to fund salary steps for school workers and employees at Delaware Tech, plus $750,000 for salary increases for school paraprofessionals.
Also as mentioned in the State of the State, Markell budget keeps the growing costs of Medicaid in mind, allocating $21.7 million for Medicaid costs. Last year’s budget increased Medicaid spending by $56 million, and this year’s number builds on that increase. Over the past ten years, spending on Medicaid costs in the state have increased by 127%. Now, state and federal funding of Medicaid in the state tops $1.2 billion.
“As I mentioned in the State of the State, tackling these spiraling costs – moving from paying for sick care to paying for health care – has to be a priority or we’ll lose the ability in the future to invest in areas like education that are critical to economic growth,” Markell said.
Other spending on health care includes $6.8 million for the Department of Health and Social Services to fund community placements and special school graduates in the Division of Developmental Disabilities Services. Non-profit providers will get an additional $2.8 million to sustain services provided in cooperation with the state.
Governor Markell has long touted the state’s efforts to help lure companies to the First State through the Delaware Strategic Fund, and the 2013 budget proposal reflects that. Markell’s budget includes $30 million to replenish that fund, which was used in recent years to encourage job creation at Amazon, PBF Energy’s refinery in Delaware City, and Bloom Energy among other companies. “We need to keep focused and keep pushing forward in our efforts to expand economic opportunity and make our state an even better place to start and grow a business,” Markell said.
The Capital budget proposal includes $448 million in spending on infrastructure projects. That includes $13 million to build the First State Trails and Pathways Plan. The goal of the plan is to make Delaware one of the most walkable and bike friendly states in the nation.
Delaware schools again get attention in the Capital budget, with $116 million for major projects at the Capital, Laurel, Red Clay, Woodbridge, Seaford, New Castle County Vo-Tech, Polytech, and Sussex Vo-Tech districts. The capital budget also includes $9 million for projects at Delaware State University, Delaware Tech, and the University of Delaware.
Public safety improvements are also included in the Capital budget proposal. Howard R. Young Correctional Facility will get $9.9 million for improvements including work at the prison’s kitchen. State Police Troop 3 in Camden will get $6.6 million for a new headquarters building, while Troop 7 in Lewes will get $1.6 million to buy land and start design work on a new headquarters.
The Joint Finance Committee will begin meetings on the Governor’s budget on Monday. Because of those hearings, the General Assembly will not be in session until mid-March. The budget, which will undoubtedly be adjusted by lawmakers, must be approved before midnight on June 30.