General Assembly passes largest bond bill in Delaware’s history for FY ’22

WDEL | by DJ McAneny

Delaware’s General Assembly managed to pass a behemoth $1.3 billion bond bill Tuesday that spends $400 million over the previous year.

“The Fiscal Year ’22 bond bill is the very largest in the state of Delaware’s history,” said bond committee co-chair Democrat Rep. Debra Heffernan. “It takes care of $1.3 billion–billion, with a ‘B’–capital investments throughout the state of Delaware.”

The bill puts almost $500 million into transportation and infrastructure; $304 million into K-12 and higher education; $198 million into economic development; $151 million for new Kent and Sussex county courthouses; $87 million for clean water, outdoor recreation, and inland bay dredging; and $70 million for Community Reinvestment and Redevelopment Fund.

“it was pretty exciting to see it passed unanimously in the Senate,” Heffernan said. “I really want to say, I’m hoping everybody is happy, because I think we made everybody in the state happy.”

While it had passed unanimously in the Senate earlier that same afternoon, it did not go unopposed in the House, where Republican Rep. Lyndon Yearick said the bill was a slap in the face to struggling Delawareans.

“I’m going to rise in opposition. I plan to vote no on it. And you can call me a hypocrite. You can call me whatever,” Yearick said. “We’re going to pat ourselves on the back and separate our shoulders from being so proud of ourselves. In regards to the money that we’re spending for Delaware taxpayers for this project, you know, one person’s pork is another person’s stimulus. And yeah, I will benefit from this. I will definitely benefit from this. But I think it’s rather disingenuous, coming out of a pandemic, with plenty of Delawareans still suffering–who have lost jobs, that have had their businesses suffer–that we’ve added over $400 million towards this.”

Democrat Rep. John Kowalko didn’t vote no, but he didn’t vote at all, out of protest to a $19 million grant issued by the Delaware Prosperity Partnership to Shanghai-based pharmaceutical company WuXi STA in order to entice them to establish their next campus in Middletown. The deal was announced Monday.

“I will say that the recent headline has caused me great concern, and that is the $19 million grant to the Chinese company–W-U-X-I, I don’t know how to pronounce that–for the pharmaceutical construction costs,” Kowalko said. “This money is being placed on the table–taxpayer money–for access and use of some of the wealthiest corporations in the world…I am having much anxiety about supporting the bond bill.”

House Majority Leader Democrat Rep. Valeria Longhurst thanks Heffernan and all the lawmakers involved with crafting the legislation, acknowledging that the investments made would hopefully generate job creation in Delaware.

“[I’d] like to recognize that this bond bill will bring a lot of jobs to the state of Delaware,” she said. “It may be a big budget, but I think it’s a lot of work that’s going out into the community, and it’s going to benefit all of our constituents in our communities.”

Speaker of the House Democrat Rep. Peter Schwartzkopf agreed.

“This is $1.35 billion that is going directly back into our communities, into our state, into every individual citizen we have living in our state. So this money isn’t going into a pocket someplace of ours, it’s going into their pockets. It’s going back into their communities to pay for infrastructure in their communities, and to do the things that they need done,” he said. “I think you guys did a great job, under very tough circumstances. I really do.”

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