A Bay Journal article (2019-06-07) reported that Delaware has moved one step closer to creating a dedicated funding source to address the state’s Chesapeake Bay restoration and water quality backlog. According to the article, legislation providing for $25 million a year for water projects (House Bill 200) has passed out of the House’s Natural Resources Committee and will be up for a vote before the full House in late June.
The article noted that Delaware faces a $100 million annual shortfall in funding water quality programs and if the $25 million funding legislation were to pass, it could be coupled with another $25 million in bonds to provide a total of $50 million in funding. In 2018, the Delaware General Assembly set aside a near-record sum of $10 million in funding.
However, the article explained that despite the backing of 34 legislators and a coalition of more than 50 environmental and civic groups, the bill still faces an uphill battle due to the fact that it would take funding from existing sources as opposed to creating a new funding source. From the article:
“This legislation this year makes clear that we prioritize clean water,” state Sen. Bryan Townsend told about 125 cheering bill supporters during a rally on the Capitol’s steps before the committee hearing. “This legislation is so key because it says we are going to guarantee, not subject to the annual whims, a guarantee of funding.” …
Since the new bill taps into existing revenues, it would potentially sap funding from other pressing initiatives, [House Speaker Pete] Schwartzkopf said. And if the state uses that money to obtain bonds, lenders will likely require that funding to be locked into place for years to come.
“The funding process is not what we do,” the Rehoboth Beach Democrat told the committee. “It’s not how we fund projects in this state.”
The article noted that members of Governor John Carney’s administration have raised similar objections to the bill. The article also detailed previous legislative attempts to create a dedicated water quality funding source.
Delaware has two-year sessions and the first year of this session ends on June 30. If the bill does not move, legislators will resume their deliberations when the second year of the session begins next January.