“The devil is in the details.”
State Senate Minority Whip Brian Pettyjohn, R- Georgetown, summarized the work ahead for lawmakers as the Joint Finance Committee prepares to examine Governor John Carney’s $4.7-billion dollar budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1st.
Pettyjohn said he was glad to see that Carney would continue with what’s known as the ‘budget smoothing’ process, with $131-million set aside in reserves.
House Minority Leader Danny Short, R- Seaford, Minority Whip Tim Dukes, R- Laurel, and Pettyjohn did not immediately flag any objections to the governor’s spending proposals. However, some aspects will be closely scrutinized.
While Short said he was not opposed to allocating $3.6-million for police body cameras, he added that “there’s a lot of money needed to be able to put that in place, to have the recordings to be able to use… the aspect of what might happen on the roads with these troopers and police folks that we need to be fair with.”
Short also highlighted Carney’s proposal to spend $22.7-million on raises for state employees, with a goal of phasing in increases to eventually pay all state employees a minimum wage of $15 per hour.
“It just sends a strong signal that maybe there’s something afoot with regard to the minimum wage that he might be playing into for his colleagues in the General Assembly to do that to business. I have great concerns about that on the business front,” Short said.
Dukes said he is also concerned that a press for a $15 minimum wage beyond the state workforce could impact employment in restaurants, non-profits, and a sector very important in his district: agriculture.
“We’ll have to see as we move forward in this legislative session,” Dukes said.
As Sussex Countians, the three lawmakers expressed support for allocations that improve drinking water quality, fund projects in the Cape Henlopen and Indian River School Districts, and address shortcomings with court facilities.
They are also pleased the state’s fiscal situation is not nearly as dire as it could have been.
“It could have been a whole lot worse,” Pettyjohn said. “We could be looking at significant cuts or real pressure for tax increases right now. But, we’re not looking at either.”