Delaware law does allow each Committee member to appoint a designee to attend in their place, but no legislator seems to have designated an alternate.
Even worse for accountability and transparency, the General Assembly wrote into law that, in order to achieve a quorum, “fiscal and policy staff of the Office of the Controller General shall serve as designees sufficient for [that] quorum.”
In short, if a quorum is needed, and it is always needed, they simply pack the room with staff.
CRI: If Legislators don’t attend, can members of the public weigh in and participate – we are talking about $7.5 billion?
COPELAND: The committee’s meetings do follow open meeting laws, as much as that helps. For example, the March 2021 meeting agenda (https://budget.delaware.gov/clearinghouse/abm.shtml) consists of a simple listing of grants to be considered. The information only includes the applicant agency, a project title, funding amounts, and an SAI (State Application Identifier) code.
The SAI code is a hyperlink to a password-protected webpage. It seems that taxpayers are not supposed to know the details of where their money is being spent.
CRI: Why should this “Shadow Budget” matter to the citizens of Delaware?
COPELAND: Given trends, in Fiscal Year 2022, Delaware will spend well over $12.5 billion, which is over $12,500 per person in Delaware.
If this money came directly to citizens, each family of 4 would have an additional income of $50,000 per year. And most of this money, over 60 cents of every dollar, flows through an opaque process with little to no taxpayer or legislative oversight.
Plus, most of these grants and amounts are not an overt part of the General Assembly’s budget-making process (some small percent do require State matching funds), which certainly could lead to duplicative spending, cronyism, or corruption. The two grants I previously mentioned have no detail as to the rules and oversight for spending those funds – who gets the money, who measures success or failure, how do these funds relate to other spending, etc.…
The pie chart below from the Department of Finance shows the true size of Delaware’s government and the size of the “Shadow Budget.”