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Delaware Gov. Jack Markell on Wednesday unveiled plans for how he wants to spend hundreds of millions of dollars that have been added to Delaware's expected revenues since he released his budget proposal in January.
Markell announced a three-part plan to create jobs and boost the state's economy without further burdening the state's operating budget. It includes one-time expenditures on a variety of jobs-related initiatives, targeted tax and debt obligation reductions, and investments aimed at expanding economic opportunities within the state.
Markell discussed the first phase of his proposal on Wednesday, calling for $135 million in spending to help create jobs. He planned to address tax and debt reduction on Thursday and economic opportunity investments on Friday.
"We are very much focused on making sure that the money puts as many Delawareans to work as possible," he told a business group in Dover.
Markell noted that since he proposed his budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, a state panel has added $320 million to its official revenue estimates.
The primary sources of the additional money identified by the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council are corporate income taxes, bank franchise taxes and abandoned property.
"We have seen in the last couple of months ... a bit of an uptick in revenues into the state's coffers," said Markell, who took office in the midst of the economic downturn. "This is the first time I've ever really been able to say that."
But he warned that the state continues to face economic challenges, and that there is no assurance that the increased estimates will translate into solid, long-term growth in the respective revenue sources. He also noted that the state can no longer rely on federal stimulus money and Medicaid costs will continue to grow.
"We've got to be incredibly cautious about growing the operating budget," he said.
Markell proposed using $40 million in abandoned property revenue to create a new Jobs Infrastructure Fund, which would help pay for infrastructure improvements to benefit companies relocating or expanding in Delaware. The abandoned property funds would be supplemented with $20 million of bonding authority.
Markell first proposed the fund in his State of the State speech in January but did not specify how it would be financed. Officials said at the time that possible revenue sources for the program included abandoned property collections and corporate fees.
The governor suggested Wednesday that another $40 million be used to shore up the state's transportation trust fund, which is used to build and maintain roads and other transportation infrastructure and is facing a significant shortfall between projected needs and expected revenues.
The governor also wants to spend $35 million to restore and preserve state-owned property such as parks and historic buildings, $10 million to acquire and preserve open space, and $10 million on a low-income housing program that will help leverage federal funds to rehabilitate privately owned rental properties.
Members of the legislature's joint finance committee are expected to consider Markell's proposals when they begin marking up his recommended fiscal 2012 budget later this month.