Delaware’s fiscal year runs July 1 through June 30, and once the new year begins, so does planning for the next. By law, the state budget must be balanced and the State may not spend more than 98% of revenue; the remaining 2% is invested in the “Rainy Day Fund.” Revenue estimates are based on the periodic reports of the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council (DEFAC)
State agencies work over the summer into the fall on their requests. Those agencies most of interest to the autism community include the Department of Labor (includes the Divisional of Vocational Rehabilitation), Department of Education, and Department of Health and Social Services (contains the Division of Developmental Disabilities Services and the Division of Medicaid and Medical Assistance).
Agencies submit their requests to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in October. In November, the agencies formally present their requests to OMB in a series of hearings at which the public is invited to observe and testify. Community organizations apply for grants through the Grant-in-Aid bill.
OMB works with the governor to create the GRB, or Governor’s Recommended Budget, based on the agency requests, governor’s priorities, and reports from DEFAC. The GRB is formally submitted to the General Assembly in the last week of January, typically one week after the State of the State speech.
On the legislative side, the governor’s recommended budget is introduced as new pieces of legislation- the operating and capital budgets. The Joint Finance Committee, made up of six representatives and six senators, holds hearings in February and March at which the state agencies testify in support of their requests as presented in the GRB, and again the public is invited to testify.
The JFC works throughout the session on the operating budget, and goes into “Mark-Up” to make their changes final in May. Those deliberations are open to the public. The Joint Committee on Capital Improvement (Bond Bill Committee) reviews the capital budget requests. Final operating, capital, and grant-in-aid (support for community organizations approved by JFC) budgets are presented to all legislators for their vote late in the session so that they have the latest revenue estimates from DEFAC. Because legislators often do not see the final budget until the last weeks of session, it is critical to advocate budget policy issues to JFC members as well as one’s own legislators.