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Delaware Senate passes bond bill, grant-in-aid after coronavirus forces last-minute cuts

From the News Journal

The Delaware Senate on Thursday unanimously approved hundreds of millions in funding for capital projects and nonprofits across the state for next fiscal year.

The $55 million nonprofit grant-in-aid bill and the $708 million capital bond bill now head to the House, which is scheduled to vote on Tuesday.

The approval comes after the 21-person upper chamber on Tuesday failed to pass both of those bills, which require three-fourths of senators’ approval. Several Republicans refused to vote, saying they wanted more time to review the bills that the General Assembly wants to fully pass by the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

Sen. Nicole Poore, D-New Castle (left), and Sen. Jack Walsh, D-Stanton sit during the Senate Elections, Government and Community Affairs Committee hearing on Jan. 15, 2020.

Lawmakers on Wednesday were able to pass their biggest agenda item: a $4.5 billion operating budget for next fiscal year. The state planned for a $4.6 billion budget and an $893 million bond bill — the biggest in the state’s history — at the start of this year, but both suffered cuts after the state’s revenue forecast dropped by $400 million between December and June. Construction costs and building renovations are delayed, and not all state employees are getting pay raises as originally promised.

The whittled-down bond bill includes millions in cuts to clean water initiatives and business incentives for next fiscal year. Some pools of money, such as $20 million to aid private and public colleges, have been cut entirely for next year.

Dover resident Thomas Moore walks in front of Legislative Hall at the Delaware State Capitol, which sit quiet on Monday, March 30 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The state meanwhile is relying on a hefty aid package from the federal government to pay for costs related to the coronavirus pandemic, such as testing and benefits to masses of unemployed Delawareans. Lawmakers returned to work via Zoom video conferencing in late May after a two-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down Legislative Hall.

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