Sussex GOP

Proposed Budget Includes Funding for Controversial Bills and More Money for Care Workers JUNE 2, 2021 — The new state operating budget includes money to pay for two controversial bills, should they become law. State Rep. Ruth Briggs King (R-Georgetown, Long Neck) is a member of the General Assembly’s Joint Finance Committee, which recently completed its work on the Fiscal Year 2022 state operating budget. Rep. Briggs King says the new spending plan includes contingency funding for the Delaware Marijuana Control Act, which seeks to legalize recreational marijuana. The measure has a $3.6 million set-aside that will be needed if it is enacted. While the law would eventually generate money for the state through taxes and fees, the funding in the budget represents investments needed to establish the initial framework. This include 22 full-time positions for regulation and enforcement and four positions for establishing the Office of the Marijuana Commissioner. Another pending contentious bill that has been accounted for in the budget is Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 3, which would require Delawareans to obtain a “qualified purchaser card” before they could buy a handgun. To acquire a card, which would be valid for six months, an individual would need to be fingerprinted, undergo a criminal background check, and successfully complete a firearms training course. According to Rep. Briggs King, an estimated 48 full-time employees would be needed to handle the added bureaucracy if the “permit-to-purchase” proposal becomes law. Should the bills not be enacted, the set-aside money would be returned to the General Fund. Pending legislation to require all Delaware police officers to wear body cameras also has contingency money in the budget. The initiative was proposed by Gov. John Carney, has broad support in the legislature, and appears destined for enactment. Money to purchase equipment will be included in the capital budget, while the operating budget contains appropriations for 50 new full-time employees to handle the program’s technical requirements and administer the massive amounts of collected video. Rep. Briggs King says the tentative operating budget also includes more than $18 million to pay for the McNesby Act. Passed in 2018, the law seeks to increase compensation for personal care workers assisting those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The new appropriation will raise those rates to about 85% of market value. Budget writers will next work on the Grants-in-Aid Bill. The annual omnibus measure provides state grants to hundreds of non-profit organizations — such as senior centers and volunteer fire departments — that provide services to Delawareans. While largely completed, the state operating budget will be tweaked at least one additional time in reaction to the last state revenue forecast of FY 2021 that will be issued in late June. The new budget must be enacted by July 1st to maintain all state government operations.