Governor Reveals FY2007 Budget
By SUSSEX COUNTY ONLINE
Jan 29, 2006, 08:37
Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner unveiled her proposed Fiscal Year 2007 budget on Friday, Jan. 27, 2006.
The governor's budget represents an increase of just under 6 percent from 2006 while continuing funding of her key priorities in education, health care, economic development and the environment.
While economic conditions in recent years have forced other states to lay off employees, reduce services or cut people from Medicaid rolls, Delaware has remained financially strong, now one of just six states in the nation to maintain a AAA bond rating.
The Governor's proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 totals $3 billion, which represents an increase of 5.69 percent over last year, much of which is due to increased health care costs. The capital budget, or bond bill, is $402.1 million for roads, schools and other construction projects.
Gov. Minner highlighted the following in her Thursday budget release:
$7 million in operating funds to continue implementation of the full-day kindergarten initiative that is on track to be in place in all elementary schools by 2008.
$632,400 to fund an additional 10 math specialists in middle schools. Last year, 22 math specialists were funded.
$600,000 for the Student Excellence Equals Degree (SEED) scholarship program, which offers students the opportunity to pursue a two-year college degree tuition-free, if they do well in high school and stay out of trouble.
Health and Safety
$12.5 million for the continued implementation of recommendations from the Delaware Advisory Council on Cancer Incidence and Mortality. This brings the total budget for the fight against cancer to $40 million over the past four years.
$2 million to implement recommendations of the Infant Mortality Task Force. This doubles last year's funding for this initiative and will help to increase preconception care for women with a history of poor birth outcomes.
$3 million to continue the nursing expansion program at the state's higher education institutions to help solve the nursing shortage affecting Delaware and the nation.
$4.5 million for Delaware’s first veterans' home, scheduled to open on Dec. 7.
$676,000 to add eight new troopers to the Delaware State Police. This is part of Gov. Minner’s initiative to add 70 troopers during her second term. Last year, the state funded 36 new troopers.
$13.7 million for continued upgrades to the state's 800 megahertz emergency communications system to ensure the safety and efficiency of the state’s emergency and rescue personnel.
$10 million to fund Year Three of the Governor's New Economy Initiative, which provides incentives to companies of all types -- manufacturers, biotechnology, small and large businesses.
$10 million for the Strategic Fund, which funds job creation and expansion.
$7 million for the Port of Wilmington and $5 million for the Wilmington Riverfront.
$1 million to fund vaccine development efforts at the Fraunhofer Center for Molecular Biotechnology.
$10 million for continued efforts to preserve farmland.
$10 million for continued efforts to preserve open space.
$3.2 million for the Conservation Cost Share program, which helps landowners by providing funds for the design and installation of systems that protect water supplies and natural resources, while also minimizing the erosion of farmland and the pollution to wildlife habitat.
The Governor's budget also includes more than $125 million for mandated programs and expenses that make up a large part of the total increase in operating budget growth.
This money is obligated for mandated expenses, such as an additional $59.4 million for Medicaid, an additional $10 million for state employee health care, an additional $10.6 million for new school enrollment, another $5.2 million in employee pensions, an additional $5.1 million for other post-retirement benefits and another $3.1 million in energy costs.
The budget also includes an employee pay raise of $500—which amounts to 3 percent for employees on the lower end of the pay scale—or 1 percent, whichever is greater.
"I am pleased that I will again be able to recommend a salary increase for state employees, though I hope to be able to work with members of the Joint Finance Committee to enhance it," Gov. Minner said. "Last year, we made significant strides in improving compensation for state employees, with agency employees receiving an average increase of 8 percent. It is my sincere hope that if the economic condition improves, I will be able to recommend additional salary enhancements during the mark-up budget process."
The budget and bond bill proposals now go to the General Assembly for review and passage by June 30.
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