Delaware House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf says Gov. John Carney’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year is just a starting point. But he agrees with the governor that Delaware needs to make structural budget changes.
Carney is not proposing a personal income tax increase this year. But he says the state would be better off financially if lawmakers had approved a hike last year.
Democrats and Republicans fought over income tax increases and prevailing wage reform - neither party getting entirely their way.
Schwartzkopf said raising taxes remains part of the conversation around this year’s budget. He said the state’s revenue isn’t keeping up with costs.
“We’ve still got to figure out a way to quit kicking the can down the road," he said. "We need a bipartisan approach to it and we will talk about it this year to see what we can do. Not sure it will happen, but we’re going to work on it.”
Schwartzkopf said creating a structural fix would mean increasing income taxes or implementing a statewide property tax.
Both the speaker and Carney say they support some kind of budget smoothing fund that would help bridge future shortfalls.
Schwartzkopf also said there’s things he likes and doesn’t like in Carney's proposed this week. He said he doesn’t like that Carney only added back about half the grant-in-aid money cut for this fiscal year. That money goes to various nonprofits, senior centers and volunteer fire companies.
Lawmakers cut grant-in-aid by 20 percent to close a budget shortfall of more than 300 million. And Schwartzkopf says he wants it all put back into the budget.
“Most of the members in the building want to try to restore back to the 2017 level and go back back and do you know the due diligence and and look at some of these agencies to make sure we’re getting good services for the money we’re giving them,” he said.
House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst is sponsoring legislation that creates a joint Grants-In-Aid Committee. The committee would review grant requests and help develop the funding bill. It would also monitor the performance of recipients. Currently, the Joint Finance committee oversees grants-in-aid.
Longhurst’s legislation passed the House earlier this month.
As matter of disclosure - Delaware Public Media received $72,000 in the current fiscal year from grants-in-aid.