Not exactly high times in Delaware with budget talks ahead

DOVER — Some notes and quotes between headlines and deadlines…

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With the legislature in session, we can expect budget discussions to be in the headlines frequently from now until July 1.

Gov. John Carney, who has been touring the state and discussing challenges with Delawareans, said he will release a proposed budget to lawmakers on Thursday.

We do not have specifics just yet, but we anticipate that it will be different from what Gov. Jack Markell had recommended earlier this year after learning the state faced a $350 million shortfall.

Gov. Carney said it will be “a budget that is going to have significant spending cuts and most of which nobody’s going to like it, including myself.”

He added later that his team’s approach will be half revenue and half spending cuts.

On Monday, the state economic forecast committee meets and will update the expected revenues and expenses.

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Speaking of budget worries, Kent County Levy Court President Brooks Banta is concerned about a Markell proposal that would reduce the share of the realty transfer tax revenue for the counties and the Markell proposal to reduce state funds for paramedics.

Mr. Banta, addressing business leaders at a Kent County plant managers meeting, said it is unfair. Additional costs to the county would be about $2.5 million, he said, and would impact ambulances, paramedics and fire service.

“You never want to punish a child for being good, and we’ve been good,” he said, noting the upcoming budget plan for the county does not include a tax increase.

He said the county has made necessary cuts to balance its budget and operates within its means.

Additional county frustration is that state lawmakers do not wrap up the state’s budget typically until the final night of the General Assembly — June 30 or in the wee hours of July1.

“It’ll be a little late for us to make up the difference,” he said.

Mr. Banta said the county needs to have its budget finalized this year by April 25.

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At Thursday night’s town hall in the Red Clay School District, Gov. Carney fielded commentary from cannabis supporters and noted that a number of them had appeared at each of the town hall meetings so far with a pitch to create a big industry that offered a great opportunity for tax revenues.

Gov. Carney’s not high on the idea, though.

First, he said the state needs to “stand up” its medical marijuana operations and then take a look at the effects legalized marijuana has had elsewhere in the country.

He did say that he planned to have town hall meetings on marijuana in the future.

“I don’t know why,” he joked, “but I’m going to do it.”

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On Wednesday, Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce President Judy Diogo said her organization is keeping a close eye on the legislative session.

In particularly, the chamber plans to pay attention to the minimum wage debate.

Last year, the effort stalled in the House of Representatives. It’ll be back again this spring, she said.

On Thursday, Gov. Carney was asked about a minimum wage increase and he said he was concerned about citizens making a livable wage.

“I do support it in a gradual way,” he said.

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Thursday will be Delaware’s day at the new American Revolution Museum at Yorktown in Virginia.

The 13-day grand opening celebration starts with Delaware on March 23. Delaware’s distinction as the “First State” earned it the opening spot among the original colonies to be recognized.

The museum’s intent is to tell the story of the revolution from a national perspective.

For more information on the museum and its Delaware day, visit www.historyisfun.org/yorktown-victory-center/

Reach editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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