More details released about Governor's FY '15 spending plan
By Amy Cherry for Delaware1059

Updated Thursday, January 30, 2014 - 6:40pm

Governor Markell unveils his proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget of $3.8 billion that spends three-percent more over last year.

WDEL's Amy Cherry reports.

If Gov. Markell gets his way, state employees will get a one-percent raise.

"There's a lot of pressure in the budget, it was one of the things right off the bat, we tried to make work, to help employees keep pace," said Office of Management and Budget Director Ann Visalli.

Markell says the raise is a way to invest in our people.

"Making it more likely we'll be able to attract and retain quality employees. Obviously, one percent, I'm sure a lot of people would like more than that, but we worked hard to find a way to make that happen," Markell said.

The budget also calls for step increases for teachers along with $19 million allotted for additional teachers as Delaware's public schools see major growth.

The cost of doing business in Delaware would go up with the minimum annual corporate franchise tax more than doubling from $75 to $175. This budget also hikes the annual tax on Limited Liability Companies, many of them out-of-state. Combined, both proposals would generate $51 million in additional revenue.

Year after year, programs like open space and farmland preservation face cuts. FY 2015 is no different. Both programs have been slashed by $7.8 million, leaving $2 million in each. Delaware's Energy Efficiency Fund would also see a $1.6 million cut, leaving it with $3.4 million.

New programs like Markell's proposed mental health and substance abuse initiative as well as the Nurse Family Partnership account for less than one percent of the FY 2015 budget's three-percent growth in spending. Other State of the State proposals including $3 million for Markell's proposed cyber security initiative and $7 million for downtown development incentives. Money for both would come from the capital budget. Statewide paths and trails would also get $2.7 million from the capital budget.

The Clean Water Initiative, mentioned in Markell's State of the State, wasn't included in this budget plan at all. Markell says he'll take the wraps off that program soon, but the FY 2015 budget, as it stands, doesn't fund it.

To help close $139 million budget gap, Markell wants $39 million to go from the Transportation Trust Fund over into the General Fund--a patch to a real problem.

As he takes money from the Transportation Trust Fund and sends it into the General Fund, Markell is also suggesting a 10-cent per gallon gas tax hike to help out on the transportation side. The gas tax proposal is estimated to make $100 in additional revenue, leaving the Transportation Trust Fund with $228 million for improvements to roads and bridges.

Delaware's gas tax hasn't been raised since 1995, and when asked whether he's got a back-up plan if lawmakers don't go for the gas tax hike, Markell was blunt.

"No we don't," he said.

He went on to say the back-up plan is Delaware left with just $128 million to improve roads and bridges, money that won't go very far and would lead to dozens of projects being delayed or deferred.

"A dollar of spending in 1995 is worth 65 cents today. So we're going to talk to every single one, Democratic, Republican, doesn't matter, if there's any issue that shouldn't be partisan, infrastructure is it," said Markell.

Governor Markell's Proposed Capital Budget

Markell is proposing $461 million for the bond bill and capital budget.

The breakdown includes at least $22 million for the Strategic Fund, which is used to lure new business and expand existing businesses.

Markell is asking for $10 million for a new crane at the Port of Wilmington, a promise made to keep Dole, the port's largest customer, from moving to a neighboring port in Paulsboro, New Jersey.

The Riverfront Development Corporation (RDC) would maintain funding from last year at $3.1 million dollars to be used for "various projects" and land acquisition that Secretary of State Jeff Bullock, who sits on the RDC board, declined to specify.

The capital budget calls for $16.5 million for projects at Delaware's three institutions of higher education. Public education projects have been allotted $93 million for major and minor improvements.

Funding continues for a new Troop 3 in Camden at a price tag of $3 million, while Delaware's National Guard 198th Readiness Center in Newport would see a $1.7 million in funding. $14.8 million is in the capital budget for improvements, like new roofs, for state-owned facilities.

Under Markell's proposal, Grants-in-Aid, money that goes to cities and towns, would get $45 million, a slight uptick from last year.

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