The Delaware Joint Finance Committee is in full swing this month! As different state agencies give their presentations for the FY2020 state budget for Delaware, the legislators on the committee have to make some big decisions between now and June 30th. Alexandra Sparco, the legislative aide for the JFC Chair Quinton Johnson, gave an overview of what’s been going on in the public hearings for the first week. I hope to get these for all the presentations as they give an excellent overview of what different state agencies are looking to carry out in the next fiscal year. Continue reading
Sources around Legislative Hall are speaking loudly about a very unusual committee assignment in the Delaware Senate. It appears to be a sure thing that a rookie Delaware State Senator will get a spot on the Joint Finance Committee.
While some think this is a most excellent idea others are fuming. While I won’t name the Senator just yet, I can say they are a Democrat. With a spot on JFC, this also gives a Senator or State Representative more money. Almost $10,000 extra a year. While the average salary for a State Rep. or Senator is around $45,000 a year, that is a big percentage more to be on JFC. But I will say the bump is necessary because they do spend most of February and other weeks in hearings to help determine the final state budget for the next fiscal year.
A spot on JFC is something many legislators covet. While the salary bump is nice, many legislators do not rely on their General Assembly salary as their primary income. It is, however, a very powerful position. This is where all the financial decisions for the entire state budget are made. A voice on this committee is huge! Most members of JFC earn it over the years so for a seat to be given to a rookie is extremely rare.
The Delaware Joint Finance Committee told a packed room they would not be releasing lists of budget cuts to the media or the public today. This is truly disheartening. Does this mean we can only rely on what is said verbally at their meetings? Yes, I published a full list of the cuts up until yesterday. But I assumed that information is public and never questioned once that it shouldn’t be. I guess the Delaware Joint Finance Committee doesn’t want the public weighing in on all their cuts. James Dawson with Delaware Public Media released the following tweet today in response to this:
As well, the JFC decided it won’t meet again this week to give the General Assembly time to come up with some revenue raising legislation. To date, the JFC has cut $80 million from the budget with about $140 million left to go. To say the situation is becoming serious would be an understatement. Once again, Dawson released a tweet about this:
I attended probably the last third of the meeting today. Since no sheets were released, I have nothing new to report. I will rely on the mainstream media for that as they were in attendance the whole time.
When Governor Markell was Governor of Delaware, I complained about the lack of transparency constantly. It doesn’t look like our JFC and Governor Carney’s office learned the lessons from the prior administration. The people of Delaware deserve better than this.
The Delaware Joint Finance Committee had one hell of a mark-up session today with the State Budget for Fiscal Year 2018. The following are programs that will be eliminated or have their budgets reduced. I hope they have a lot of pens down there, because this process is not done yet. Education wasn’t even supposed to happen today except for higher education. Most of the education power-brokers weren’t even there when this mighty swath of cuts came up!
Delaware Department of Education Eliminations
Professional Development for Student Standards & Assessment
Dues for Southern Regional Education Board
State Board of Education
Michael C. Ferguson awards
20% Reduction in Scholarships and Grants
Teacher Leader Pilot program
Summer School: Gifted & Talented funding
Delaware Teacher Center
Delaware Geographic Alliance
Center for Economic Education
Gay Straight Alliance
Teacher stipends for service in high-risk schools through the Delaware Talent Cooperative
Adolescent Day Program
College Access: Dual Enrollment Subgrants, PSAT, Competition subgrants, Delaware College Scholars, College Application Month, Scholarship Compendium, Stand By Me with DHSS,
Other Dept. of Education Reductions or Shifts
Professional Accountability and Instructional Advancement fund: eliminates $157 per employee allocation
Driver’s Education: implements fee for non-public school students to pay for program costs
Public School Transportation: Increase local share from 15% to 20%
Reduce $2 million in early childhood incentives
Reduce the following by 5%: Odyssey of the Mind, Teacher of the Year, Educator Certificate & Development, Professional Standards Board, State Testing Comp., Parents as Teachers, Student Organizations, Technology Operations
Other big cuts or reductions in the State Budget
Eliminations: FY18 Appropriation for Victim Offender Mediation, FY18 Appropriation for Child Placement Review Board, Civil Indigent Services, Kids Count, International Trade, Italian/American Commission, Delaware Center for Global Trade, Delaware Art, Library DELNET computer system and computer equipment (shifts costs to counties), Medical Marijuana Appropriation, Hispanic Affairs Appropriation, Office of Volunteer Services, FY2018 Appropriations for Dept. of Corrections for Hope Commission, Mentor Programs, Pre-Trial Services provided by Rick Vanstory, Tire Scrap Management Fund, Agriculture Advertising Line, Agriculture Development Program Line, Alternative Agricultural Products Line, Nutrient Management Planning, Poultry Litter State Funding
Reductions: Dept. of Justice Transcription Services, Contractual Services, and Conflict Attorney Rates, Two full-time employee positions and reductes contractual services for Commission for Women, Drug Court Program (Dept. of Services for Children, Youth & Their Families), Child welfare/contractual services for foster care contracts and Ready by 21 program, Vocational Rehabilitation Contractual Services through Dept. of Labor, Reductions for Fire Prevent Commission including ballistic vests and statewide fire safety education
DHSS Reductions of 20%: Health Disparities, Preschool Diagnosis and Treatment, Immunizations, Hepatitis B, Needle Exchange Program, Infant Mortality Task Force, Cancer Council, Gift of Life, Delaware Organ and Tissue Program 2, Developmental Screening, Uninsured Action Plan, DIMES, Sickle Cell, Nurse Family Partnership, Prescription Drug Prevention.
For a full list of all the cuts and the amounts, please see the document below:
While this isn’t my dream list of cuts, and some things are still in there, the Delaware Joint Finance Committee sure did swing the axe on tons of programs from Governor Markell’s budget! Gone is the after-school SAIL funding ($1 million), the always controversial charter school performance fund ($500,000), career pathways programs ($250,000), more internet bandwidth for schools ($3 million), a technology block grant ($1 million), and SEED scholarship expansion ($500,000).
The VERY controversial early learning budget of $11 million got cut to $9 million. Teachers will not be happy about this: they lost their raises which had $3 million allocated. Even the big three: University of Delaware, Delaware State University and Delaware Technical Community College got a 1% slash in their operating budgets.
Governor Markell is on the way out and the Joint Finance Committee sent a strong message to Delawareans today: we are not going to allow all this rampant spending in education to continue for programs that have no intrinsic value to the true success of students. It’s almost like they read all the crap in the Every Student Succeeds Act and said “Not for Delaware”! I’m sure Rodel is pissed about a lot of these cuts, but it’s about time we got their stink out of Legislative Hall. Eight years is enough!
They can cut some more stuff: the charter school transportation slush fund (which can add up to about $2 million a year), all these insane contracts the DOE has with the take the money and run education companies (they could probably save the deficit by taking an axe to that stuff), and perhaps some more to the early learning program (or hell, give it all to the basic special education funding for Kindergarten to 3rd grade students with disabilities). Not mentioned in today’s round of budget cuts are any funds associated with the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan. But the General Assembly has to pass the legislation first!
The JFC meets tomorrow, so there could be more. I’m sure the lobbyists are chomping at the bit to meet with every single legislator they can between now and June 30th, the last day of the 148th General Assembly.