Delaware Public Media | by Tom Byrne
Gov. John Carney’s 2018 budget proposal is already getting some initial blowback from state lawmakers.
His calls to raise personal income tax rates and cut education spending were among the ideas that drew criticism immediately after the governor unveiled his plan Thursday.
Carney’s proposal to cut $37 million from what it currently sends to school districts raised eyebrows on both sides of the aisle.
And State senator Ernie Lopez (R-Lewes) isn’t sure the governor’s plan to allow districts to recoup 22 million of those dollars by raising property taxes without a referendum will help.
He says district residents may feel they’re being hit up twice.
“It may be a little kick in the teeth to folks who recently passed referendums and to school districts looking to plan them in the immediate future,” said Lopez. “I think there’s some talking space in that room. And I think it is important for us to be working very closely as legislators with our district officials to see where we can be most helpful.”
State Rep. John Kowalko (D-Newark South) was more critical, arguing cutting education is not the way to balance the state budget.
“This is not a burden we can turn our backs on. We have to approach it as a necessary burden,” said Kowalko. “And I find it very disturbing that it’s portrayed as a way to cut some expenses.”
Gov. Carney’s call to raise most Delawareans personal income tax rates to help balance the state’s 2018 budget also drew opposition from Lopez and Kowalko.
Lopez says he was surprised to see it in the governor’s proposal.
“Right off the bat, that’s a serious concern for me,” said Lopez. “I don’t want to say it’s a non-starter. I promised this governor – and I think all of us will be working together on a bipartisan basis, but again I was taken aback a little to see that was so prominently displayed in the presentation.”
Kowalko is willing to raise taxes, but says those hikes should be on higher income earners – not across the board.
Kowalko is preparing to introduce legislation to create two new brackets above the current top bracket, and tax them at a higher rate.
Carney’s tax plan would raise an additional $65 million dollars annually. Carney says that will help plug this year’s deficit and address the state’s structural revenue problem
Lopez and Kowalko each say they are more willing to work with the governor to find ways to reign in state employee health care costs.