Spending authority dispute divides Delaware Senate

Lawmakers meet in the Joint Finance Room at Legislative Hall in Dover. (FILE/NewsWorks)

Lawmakers meet in the Joint Finance Room at Legislative Hall in Dover. (FILE/NewsWorks)

A Republican-led attempt to get the state Supreme Court to consider whether the entire General Assembly should be required to approve the spending of money awarded the state via a lawsuit settlement.

 

Republicans in the Delaware Senate were unsuccessful in their effort to get clarification from the Supreme Court on how settlement money from a lawsuit would be spent.

The dispute centers on how the state will spend money Delaware received after settling its lawsuit stemming from mortgage violations banks committed during the housing crisis several years ago. Attorney General Matt Denn presented his plans for spending that money and sought approval of the Joint Finance Committee, and not from the entire General Assembly.

State Senate Republicans brought forward a resolution that would have asked the Delaware Supreme Court to weigh in on their belief that having approval only from the JFC and not from other lawmakers is unconstitutional.

That resolution was defeated in a party line vote Thursday afternoon. “All taxpayers deserve a vote when state money is spent,” said Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson, R- Milford. “Now, as a result of this partisan action by the Senate Democrats, we’ll never have that clarification, and the taxpayers of Delaware have no further recourse.”

JFC co-chairman Sen. Harris McDowell, a Democrat, strongly disagreed with Simpson. “This isn’t taxpayer money; it’s an award from a settled lawsuit,” McDowell said in a statement. “we were able to award more than $28 million dollars to programs that will directly help Delawareans hit hardest by the mortgage crisis.” He called the Republican lead resolution a “ploy to take that money from the people who need it most.”

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