DOVER — Republican lawmakers continue to push for cost-cutting measures they believe would solve Delaware’s budget woes while Democrats say the state doesn’t have enough money to meet current needs.
Budget officials say that due to the leveling off of revenue from abandoned property, lotteries and franchise taxes, the state government is in a crunch.
For members of the minority Republican caucuses, there’s another problem: too much money going out.
In March, the Republican Senate caucus sent a letter to Gov. Jack Markell requesting the heads of every state department cut spending by 5 percent. Doing so would save $195 million, according to Republicans.
“Virtually every working family and every small business owner in Delaware has had to reduce their personal and business budgets by more than 5 percent over the last few years; surely we can do the same,” the letter states.
Sen. Colin Bonini, R-Dover, has been perhaps the loudest voice in calling for state officials to spend less. Last month, he introduced a resolution that would establish a committee to study the government’s expenditures.
Now, members of the GOP have filed another proposal that would mandate the state study its long-term spending.
House Joint Resolution 3 would create a group to analyze ways to reduce costs and promote efficiency.
The Delaware Efficiency and Cost Containment Committee would be a bipartisan panel honing in on four areas: school procurement, pensions, purchasing and rewards for cost-cutting ideas.
It would include representatives of the legislature, the Office of Management and Budget, the governor’s office and other state entities.
“This is intended to be a deliberative process, not a quick fix,” Minority Leader Rep. Daniel Short, R-Seaford, said in a statement.
Both Sen. Bonini’s resolution and this more recent one are intended as counterparts to a January executive order issued by the governor to examine the state’s revenues.
Democrats have been skeptical of the Republicans’ claims that government waste is costing taxpayers millions of dollars. In a response to the Senate Republicans, Gov. Markell, a Democrat, said $195 million is the equivalent of the combined budget of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Department of Labor and General Assembly.
“Saying you want to cut 5 percent, then asking someone else to make those cuts is not courage; it’s passing the buck,” the governor stated in the letter.
Gov. Markell and some of his top lieutenants have claimed several times that, adjusted for inflation, spending has actually declined by .8 percent since he took office.
Despite the chilly reception, Republicans, who have criticized both the governor and Democratic legislators for rejecting their proposals, are hopeful the cost-cutting proposals will gain support.
“It’s not an idea that is uniquely Republican or Democrat,” said House Joint Resolution 3’s main sponsor, Rep. Lyndon Yearick, R-Camden, in a statement. “It’s just good public policy.”