Legislators restore grant-in-aid funding on final night

DOVER — Lawmakers opted not to slash funding for grant-in-aid programs Tuesday after negotiations for an infrastructure deal faltered on the final night of the Legislature.

By a unanimous vote, budget writers restored about $2 million to fire companies, senior centers, veterans organizations and other nonprofits receiving state funding for general services.

An early afternoon meeting lasted just half an hour and did not end in a vote to allocate funds for grant-in-aid.

Lawmakers said they did not know how much money was available, a result of ongoing talks between the two parties regarding a bill that would adjust the state’s General Fund.

The Joint Finance Committee returned about five hours later after closed-door meetings and voted unanimously to fully fund grant-in-aid at $45.4 million, the same level as last year.
A 5 percent cut to all programs, which would total about $2 million, had been proposed by JFC members.

Grant-in-aid recipients had objected to the change.

“It will be devastating for the Modern Maturity Center,” Carolyn Fredricks, president and CEO of the center, said Monday.

By dipping into one-time settlement money, JFC avoided cuts for the fiscal year beginning today, although the nature of that funding means legislators will have to work again to prevent a shortfall next year.

“That will not show next year unless we get an ongoing revenue stream to support it,” JFC co-chairwoman Rep. Melanie George Smith, D-Bear, said after the meeting.

The decision marked the second time in the day JFC walked back a controversial decision, after the committee overturned its vote last week shifting more of the realty transfer tax from the cities and counties to the state.

That vote had been criticized by officials from municipalities, who said it would have a tremendous negative impact on their budgets.

Rep. George Smith objected to reports the committee had been determined to make the cut to balance the budget.

“We made that decision very thoughtfully based on the fact that the senior centers, all the nonprofits that were getting the money, that if we had the money in the 36 million and
needed to use it this year to support those seniors and all, we wanted to be able to do that,” she said.

As of 11 p.m. the grant-in-aid bill had not been formally filed, one of many key things left up in the air for what was expected to be a very long night.

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