To stop budget woes, Delaware needs plan (editorial)

Last year, there was a big budget shortfall; this year there’s a big surplus and legislators are happily coming up with ideas to spend it. And this is by no means the first time that we’ve seen “the government’s financial roller coaster” in operation. So happily, there is a bipartisan proposal – endorsed by both the DE governor and DE treasurer (a Republican) – for running things more sensibly.

The proposal: “General Assembly could grow spending by a set percentage determined by economic growth. Any spending above that would be split between one-time projects and a reserve account that could be used to stave off budget cuts in lean years. If the reserve fills up and there’s money left over, it could be spent on new programs."

Not everyone is convinced, e.g., “some Democrats worry [that this plan would] impose a fundamentally conservative view of government.” But after the debate, “the General Assembly should take an initial vote on this idea before members leave in June.” Otherwise, because a constitutional amendment will be required, “state leaders won’t be able to approve the plan until 2021.”

It’s far from clear that this proposal would favor “a conservative view of government” versus creating a way to spend the $200M or so that is currently in the “rainy day fund” plus paving the way for future tax increases. In any case, it’s hard to see why anyone should take the proposal seriously until the precise wording of the proposed constitutional amendment is put on the table.
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