Delaware Legislature Passes $4.1 Billion Budget - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delaware Legislature Passes $4.1 Billion Budget

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DOVER, Del. - The Delaware Legislature finally passed a budget this weekend after hours of negotiations and deal-brokering. The losers from the budget: people who smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, or buy a house in Delaware.

Lawmakers initially voted last week to zero out tens of millions of dollars in grant funding to volunteer fire companies and non-profits. However, these organizations can now breathe a sigh of relief. 

Lawmakers approved a budget that rolled back 80 percent of those cuts, and in return, tobacco, alcohol, and real estate transfers all saw tax hikes.

Janet Berry, executive director of People's Place, a Dover-based non-profit, woke up relieved this morning. 

"I"m wearing a sleeping bag on my name tag because unfortunately, had those cuts truly eliminated grant and aid, we would have had 510 people annually sleeping on legislative hall sleeping bags because they would be homeless," she said.

Berry said People's Place can now continue to provide emergency housing and other services to low-income individuals.

The uncertainty over funding came after Democrats and Republicans failed to agree on raising income taxes. The budget vote finally came after hours of closed-door talks and deal-making during Sunday night's extraordinary session.

The compromise was made after lawmakers decided to increase the realty transfer tax by one percentage point. 

However, the Delaware Association of Realtors said that move could have potentially dangerous consequences for first-time house buyers.

"That means after a young couple saves and saves to find a down payment on a home then they find out they have to pay what used to be one-and-a-half percent, half-of-the-three percent tax, plus their closing cost and now another one percent increase which means another half-percent to the buyer -- just makes it so its very difficult for a first time home buyer to get into a home."

Still, lawmakers are hopeful the tax hike is a needed compromise on the way to a more balanced budget.

After the budget was passed last night, Governor Carny said that while it does make critical investment in areas like education, the state will continue to study real spending reform. 

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