Gov. Carney signs ‘budget smoothing’ executive order; critics weigh in

WDEL | by Mark Fowser

Governor John Carney Saturday signed an Executive Order to carry out a series of recommendations known as “budget smoothing.”

The action came after the General Assembly tabled legislation that would have created the process through a Constitutional Amendment.

The recommendations include establishing a benchmark budgeting mechanism and creating a budget stabilization fund.

“They came up with a recommendation—very well thought out—that we believe would address the needs of our budget and the needs of state agencies and non-profit agencies in our state by smoothing out, if you will, those ups and downs,” Carney said.

Carney added that “principles” from those DEFAC committee recommendations were followed as the budgets were developed this year. The state was able to fully restore cuts that were made to the grant-in-aid budget for non-profits last year.

“I’m disappointed that we were not able to structurally improve the budget process like our committee recommended. It would have made life more predictable for nonprofits, fire companies and others relying on state funds and avoided the unhealthy ‘feast or famine’ fiscal cycle we are seeing,” DEFAC Chairman Michael Houghton said. “As Chair of the Advisory Panel that recommended the changes to the General Assembly, I want to thank Governor Carney for stepping up and initiating changes that more responsibly align state spending with revenues through his Executive Order.”

Not everyone is on board with the governor’s actions.

”Governor Carney has chosen to emulate a Trumpian tactic that shows a healthy disdain for the democratic principle of separation of powers,” said state Sen. John Kowalko (D- Newark), in a statement that

The State Senate Republican Caucus in a statement supported the governor’s action, but added its concerns with this year’s budget process.

”While attempts were made by the governor during this year’s budget process to rein in the General Assembly, the state will still spend nearly 10 percent more next year than we did this year,” the caucus said. “This is unwise and unsustainable, but we are hopeful that the commitments made by the governor todat will result in a better budgeting process as we move forward.”

The Economic Justice Initiative, which had asked lawmakers to stop pursuing a Constitutional Amendment, called Governor Carney’s action “misguided.” The group contends in a statement that “budget smoothing,“ known as Tax and Expenditure Limits, are “a long-time tool of fiscal conservatives who want to limit the size of government, especially services to the poor.”

EJI continues in its statement: “Governor Carney should be concerned about the wealth inequality and high cost of living in Delaware. Over forty percent of the income in Delaware now goes to the top one percent of residents. The 90 percent are dividing up 50 percent of the income, and the lower income folks are consistently falling behind in wages and benefits. Carney already eliminated the Estate Tax. EJI asked Carney to focus on solutions to close the wealth gap and help the poor instead of signing this executive order.”

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