House Passes Fiscal 2014 Budget, Sends to Senate

$3.718 billion budget funds Medicaid, mental health, education, public and school safety increases

DOVER – The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed Delaware’s fiscal 2014 operating budget Tuesday, beginning the final steps in an eight-month public process that began last November.

The $3.718 billion budget, House Bill 200, is a 3.66-percent increase from last year’s spending plan. A significant chunk of the $130 million increase from the fiscal 2013 budget comes from increased costs to items the state is required to fund, such as Medicaid ($35.8 million), employee retirement/health ($15.4 million) and teacher unit counts ($8.8 million). Another $11.5 million would go toward debt service. A small part of the proposed budget would fund new or expanded initiatives or account for program growth, including:

  • $6.8 million for special school graduates and placements through the Division of Developmental Disabilities Services;
  • $3.3 million to increase the number of mental health professionals in middle schools from three to 33;
  • $3.2 million for a contingency fund for the federal sequester;
  • $2.65 million for computers for state testing;
  • $2.225 million for statewide targeted prevention programs (such as suicide awareness and anti-bullying efforts) for youth;
  • $2 million to implement full-day kindergarten in Indian River School District;
  • $1.2 million for 30 new Delaware State Police cruisers;
  • $1 million to upgrade court security at New Castle County Courthouse and add 17 court security positions;
  • $1 million for home-delivered meals, $300,000 of which goes to State Service Centers for the Community Food Program;
  • $797,000 for nurses, educators and speech therapists to enhance assessment and treatment services for Birth to 3 Program;
  • $600,000 to support implementation of a master’s degree program in speech-language pathology at the University of Delaware;
  • $530,500 for six new Delaware State Police troopers;
  • $515,000 for youth aging out of foster care;
  • $300,000 to accelerate the development of school safety plans.

The 300-page budget is the result of months of public hearings and open discussions by the Joint Finance Committee, a bipartisan committee of six senators and six representatives. The process began in November with public agency hearings the Office of Management and Budget held to craft the governor’s proposed budget.

JFC co-chair Rep. Melanie George Smith introduced the budget June 19, the fourth consecutive year that the state’s operating budget has been introduced at least a week before the end of session and posted online, providing the public with an opportunity to review the document. The push for increased transparency by introducing the budget earlier began three years ago, when the fiscal 2011 budget was available for public review a full week before it came to the floor for a vote.

“We crafted the budget in an open and bipartisan fashion. Many of the decisions we reached on Joint Finance Committee were unanimous after a healthy discussion,” said Rep. Smith, D-Bear. “We didn’t have a lot of additional money to allocate, but what funds were available were spent on programs for those who need it most: children, seniors and people with disabilities. We added state troopers, funded courthouse security, sped up the development of school safety plans, increased mental health services help for kids, increased funding for home-delivered meals for seniors and added millions to serve people with disabilities. This budget touches every Delaware family in some way.”

HB 200, which passed by a 40-1 vote, now heads to the Senate for consideration.