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The Latest: Delaware lawmakers agree on $4.1 billion budget

July 3, 2017

DOVER, Del. (AP) — The Latest on efforts by Delaware lawmakers to pass a budget for the fiscal year that started Saturday (all times local):

12:45 a.m.

After failing to agree on a budget by the time the new fiscal year started Saturday, Delaware lawmakers reached an accord Sunday on a $4.1 billion spending plan.

After months of budget talks, failed last-minute deals and partisan finger-pointing between Democrats and Republicans, lawmakers agreed on a budget deal in an extraordinary session called by Democratic Gov. John Carney.

House lawmakers approved the budget 38-3 before sending it to the Senate, where it received final approval on a 16-4 vote shortly after midnight early Monday.

Lawmakers also approved a capital budget that includes about $568 million for transportation projects, including $317 million in state funds, and $272 million in state funding for non-transportation construction projects.

The Senate adjourned about 12:35 a.m. and the House followed suit about 10 minutes later after approving the capital budget.

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7:15 p.m.

After hours of closed-door talks Sunday, legislative leaders in Delaware agreed to raise taxes on homes sales, tobacco and alcohol to help pay for a budget for the fiscal year that started Saturday.

Lawmakers agreed to raise the state’s real estate transfer tax from 3 percent to 4 percent. While the state splits the current tax with counties, all of the additional money from the 1 percent increase will go into the state’s general fund. The move would generate an estimated $45 million for the state this year and about $71 million the following year.

Legislative leaders also agreed to hike taxes on alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, bringing in an additional $17 million this year.

Even as the revenue bills awaited approval in the House and Senate, the budget committee reconvened and voted to rescind about $29 million in spending cuts it had previously approved. The committee also agreed to restore $37 million in funding for a grants package for nonprofit organizations, community groups and volunteer fire companies, a powerful political constituency in Delaware. The total grant appropriation is 20 percent less than in fiscal 2017.

The Democratic-led budget committee’s earlier decision to zero out spending for the grants package set off a political firestorm. Democrats accused Republicans of deliberately forcing them to make painful budget cuts. Republicans accused Democrats of using nonprofits and fire companies as political pawns in their effort to push Republicans into supporting an income tax increase.

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