Delaware lawmakers cap budget work with passage of record grants package for local organizations

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Delaware lawmakers on Sunday unanimously approved a record-shattering $98.5 million grants package for community organizations, nonprofit groups and volunteer fire companies for the fiscal year starting Monday.

The election-year “grant-in-aid” package is well above this year’s record $72 million and the $66.5 million recommended by Democratic Gov. John Carney. It includes funding for almost 50 nonprofit agencies and community organizations not included in the fiscal 2024 grants legislation.

“This year, we were fortunate to fund and invest in these critical organizations at a historic level, extending their reach and ensuring they can continue the vital work they do day in and day out on behalf of Delawareans,” said Rep. Kim Williams, a Wilmington-area Democrat who co-chairs the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee.

Passage of the bill caps the legislature’s work on budget measures for fiscal 2025.

Lawmakers previously approved a $6.13 billion general fund operating budget for the new fiscal year, an increase of more than 9% from this year’s operating budget. The new operating budget includes $2.1 billion for public education, up from $1.98 billion. Spending by the Department of Health and Social Services increases from just under $1.5 billion to $1.63 billion.

In conjunction with the operating budget, lawmakers also approved a separate supplemental budget bill of more than $168.3 million for operations, using one-time appropriations.

The operating budget is about $54 million higher than what Carney recommended in January. The supplemental spending bill is $76 million higher than what he proposed.

The operating budget continues a pattern of Delaware lawmakers signing off on spending increases that have approached 10% annually, even as officials expect essentially flat revenue growth this year and next year. It also marks the third consecutive year of pay raises for state employees, with most rank-and-file employees receiving a 2% increase.

Last week, lawmakers also unanimously approved a $1.1 billion capital budget for construction, transportation, maintenance and economic development projects. The spending plan is about $300 million less than this year’s capital budget, but roughly $160 million more than what Carney proposed.

The capital budget includes about $329 million for transportation projects, down from $354 million this year. Authorizations for non-transportation projects total $787.4 million, down from slightly more than $1 billion this year.

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