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Voices Speaking

May 21, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: State budget, minimum wage, early childhood day at the Capitol

Legislative Update

There are only two weeks left before the state legislative session ends on June 5, and policymakers are making critical decisions now about funding priorities for children and families and on the revenues to support them. Here are a few updates on recent developments.

State budget: action needed. Smart state fiscal policies can play a critical role in building a strong, equitable state economy. It is time we fix our tax laws to give working people and children a fair shot to get ahead by pursuing the twin goals of assuring adequate revenues to support the programs and services vital to the well-being of our children and families, and enhancing the fairness of our tax system.

Please take a moment today to ask both the Governor and your state legislators to fix the state budget deficit and help pay for vital services for children and families by asking the wealthy to pay more!

Finance Committee proposal. The General Assembly’s Finance Committee has published an “implementer bill” that lays out the details of its revenue proposals. It includes a highly progressive, two percent surcharge on capital gains realized by taxpayers in the highest income tax bracket and non-residents with gains derived from Connecticut sources.

This bill also recommends that the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services produce a report by January 2020 on the potential impact of implementing a new payroll tax in Connecticut. This is a complex proposal that would largely replace our state personal income tax. There are many unanswered questions about its implementation; the impact on low-income families; and other important, unforeseen consequences.

For more information on revenue options that would provide more adequate funding for child and family services while improving fairness in our tax system, see our recent report and a presentation by Jamie Mills, Director of Fiscal Policy and Economic Inclusion at Voices.

Minimum wage. Connecticut families will soon get a raise! Legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 over the next four years was approved by the House and Senate, and Governor Lamont has indicated that he will sign the bill.

Doula certification. Legislation that would establish a workgroup concerning the core competencies for doulas to be licensed or certified to practice was approved unanimously by the Senate and awaits a vote in the House. The working group would be charged with evaluating public health and safety risks and benefits associated with doulas, and the minimum requirements needed for licensure or certification as a doula. Doulas provide physical, emotional, and informational support before, during and after the birth; they do not provide medical care. Evidence suggests that doula support is likely to reduce the dramatic racial disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date!


Early Childhood Day at the Capitol

Join us at the 2019 Day at the Capitol on Thursday morning to learn about the early childhood proposals before the state legislature. The event, sponsored by the Connecticut After School Network and the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, will take place on May 23 from 9 to 11 a.m. in Room 310 at the State Capitol. After the event, you are encouraged to meet with your legislators for some hands-on advocacy.  Participants are encouraged to wear yellow.

Please RSVP here.

Learn more

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Early Care, Family Economic Security, Health
May 10, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: Countdown to the End of the Session

 

Legislative Update: Countdown to the End of the Session

There are fewer than four weeks left in the state legislative session, and this is a key time to contact your legislators about your priorities for children and families.

Raise your voice for fair and adequate state revenues

Connecticut has the opportunity this year to make significant progress toward improved access to high-quality early care and health care, as well as protecting the rights of youth in foster care and restoring funds for juvenile justice services. But without adequate revenues to close a recently estimated $3 billion budget gap over the next two years, more painful cuts that could fall most heavily on children and low-income families are all too likely.

Connecticut also needs to fix our upside down tax system, in which the wealthy pay a smaller share of their income in state and local taxes than low- and middle-income people to fund the programs and services vital to the well-being of our children and families. As we discussed in our recent summary, the revenue proposal by the General Assembly’s Finance Committee takes some positive steps in this direction by raising revenues through a surcharge on capital gains for high-income residents and by closing some corporate tax loopholes. However, the Committee’s proposal falls $340 million short of the revenues proposed by Governor Lamont for the next two years.

Another revenue proposal under discussion by legislators and advocates is a higher personal income tax rate for residents in the highest tax brackets. The state legislative session ends in less than one month on June 5, so the final shape of the state revenue and spending plans will be negotiated soon.

Please take a moment today to send a message to your legislators and the Governor, asking them to raise taxes on the wealthiest taxpayers, who currently pay less than their fair share!

Legislative budget plan avoids major cuts, but investments limited by budget rules

While the budget bill passed by the Appropriations Committee protects many programs that serve children and families from budget cuts, rigid and counterproductive budget rules are starving schools, infrastructure, and health systems of the spending needed to support critical investments.

As we explored in our latest report, the Appropriations Committee’s spending plan includes funding for some of our key priorities, including the preservation of coverage for parents of children in the HUSKY health insurance program, start-up costs for a public option to expand health insurance coverage, and restored funding for juvenile justice services. However, implementing these measures depends on raising adequate revenues. And our capacity to make the bolder investments we need in children and families continues to be limited by budget rules like the Bond Lock and the volatility, revenue, and spending caps.

Minimum wage hike approved by the House

Legislation to increase the minimum wage in Connecticut to $15 over the next four years was approved by the Connecticut House on Thursday! The bill includes a provision for a lower “training wage” for 16 and 17 year-olds for the first 90 days of their employment. The bill now moves to the Senate, where a vote may be scheduled soon.

Paid family and medical leave bill awaits floor vote

Recently, advocates have been pressing legislators to ensure that the paid family and medical leave bill ensures that all workers have access to paid leave, regardless of the size of their employer. They are also advocating for a definition of family that includes chosen family, which can be important to ensure that children in non-traditional families can still receive the care they need. The bill may get a floor vote in the Senate soon.

National partners join Voices in support of capital gains surcharge

Staff experts from our national partners – Elizabeth McNichol of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Aidan Davis of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy – joined Jamie Mills of Connecticut Voices for Children in submitting powerful testimony before the Finance Committee in support of a modest surcharge on capital gains earned by our wealthiest residents.

 

Teach-In on the State Budget

Join us at a teach-in on state budget solutions on Tuesday, where Jamie Mills, Director of Fiscal Policy and Economic Inclusion at Connecticut Voices for Children, will discuss how Connecticut’s regressive tax system contributes to growing inequality and how the state’s rigid budget rules exacerbate budget problems. She’ll also explore revenue solutions that can enable us to fund vital priorities for children and families.

The teach-in, sponsored by the DUE Justice Coalition, will take place on Tuesday, May 14 at 10 a.m. in Room 1B at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

Please spread the word and share the event flyer. We’ll see you there!

 

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Family Economic Security, Health, Juvenile Justice
April 25, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: Closing the budget deficit, youth in foster care

 

A Capital Gains Tax Can Help Close the Budget Deficit

Next week, committees of the General Assembly are expected to release their recommendations for the state budget. The deadline for the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee to make their proposal for state revenues is Thursday, May 2. The Appropriations Committee deadline for their spending plan is on the next day, May 3. If the Finance Committee does not propose enough revenues to close the budget deficit, there may be more painful cuts to programs and services for children and families.

Our state tax system as a whole is upside down—the wealthy pay a smaller share of their income in state and local taxes than low- and middle-income people do, even though they are best able to pay more. Tax increases on the relatively small group of taxpayers at the top of the income distribution can generate revenues that would allow lawmakers to minimize harmful cuts to essential services and programs.

In our recent report, we propose five revenue options that could assure adequate revenues to support the programs and services vital to the well-being of our children and families, while enhancing the fairness of our tax system. Among them is a tax on capital gains and qualified dividends for tax filers in the top two personal income tax brackets. As we describe in our new fact sheet on our proposal, the wealthiest five percent of Connecticut residents will get a $2 billion federal tax reduction in 2019 because of the Trump tax cuts. Even after a modest, proposed capital gains and qualified dividends tax, the wealthiest would still receive a net tax reduction of $1.6 billion.

At this Friday’s Finance Committee public hearing, Jamie Mills, Director of Fiscal Policy and Economic Inclusion at Voices, will testify in favor of House Bill 7415, an Act Concerning a Surcharge on Capital Gains, which would establish a surcharge on taxpayers in the top tax bracket. For a Monday hearing of the Committee, she will also submit testimony on Senate Bill 1136, which also proposes a capital gains surcharge.

 

Protecting Youth in Foster Care

An important piece of legislation that protects youth in foster care was unanimously approved by the Connecticut House and now awaits a vote in the Senate! House Bill 6403, An Act Concerning a Children in Care Bill of Rights and Expectations and the Sibling Bill of Rights, addresses issues raised by youth in foster care in our Youth at the Capitol Day research report and forum. These youth expressed concerns that they feel disconnected from their schools and communities, value the freedom to express their own identities, and need support in exploring their identities. For more information, see our fact sheet on this bill.

 

Our Recent Publications

If you missed them, be sure to check out our recent fact sheets and reports:

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates!

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare
April 2, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: Make your voice heard, successes & federal updates

Make Your Voice Heard in the State Budget Process

In February, Governor Lamont released his budget proposal, beginning the process of creating a state budget for the next two fiscal years. While Connecticut faces large, projected budget deficits, the Governor avoided large cuts to most programs affecting children and families by proposing new revenues to close the deficit. The Appropriations and Finance Committees held public hearings on the Governor’s proposals and will be offering their proposals for spending and revenues.

The subcommittees of the Appropriations Committee will soon make their recommendations for their respective portions of the budget. The deadline for the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee to make their proposal for state revenues is Thursday, May 2. The Appropriations Committee deadline is on the next day, May 3. If the Finance Committee does not propose raising enough revenues to close the budget deficit and avoid cuts, then the Appropriations Committee may make new, painful cuts that were not in the Governor’s proposal. Alternately, the Appropriations Committee may pass a budget that spares these cuts, but leaves the budget out of balance, without enough revenues to support their spending proposal.

To protect children and families, Connecticut must take a balanced approach to the state budget deficit that includes new revenues. Please:

  • Contact members of the subcommittees of the Appropriations Committee that have oversight of programs of concern to you. Explain why these programs are important to children and families, and who receives them.
  • Contact members of the Finance Committee and let them know that you support increasing revenues to balance the budget and protect children and families.

Recent Legislative Successes

Thanks to support from you and other advocates, these important state legislative proposals have moved forward in the General Assembly:

Protecting youth in foster care. House Bill 6403, An Act Concerning a Children in Care Bill of Rights and Expectations and the Sibling Bill of Rights, was approved unanimously by the Committee on Children and awaits a vote in the House. This bill addresses issues raised by youth in foster care in our Youth at the Capitol Day research report and forum. These youth expressed concerns that they feel disconnected from their schools and communities, valued the freedom to express their own identities, and need support in exploring their identities. For more information, see our fact sheet on this bill.

Improving health equity through community health workers. The Public Health Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 859, An Act Concerning Community Health Workers, which would establish a community health worker certification process as a step towards health equity in Connecticut. Community health workers can help to address barriers to health care and unmet needs. For more information, see our testimony on this bill.

You can find additional recent testimony on our website.

 

Federal Updates on Health and Nutrition Assistance

Affordable Care Act. As you may have read, the Department of Justice has endorsed a 2018 court ruling stating that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional. While Connecticut has taken steps to codify some provisions of the ACA at the state level, there are wide-reaching implications for Medicaid and the rules governing health insurance, should the entire ACA ultimately be struck down. Connecticut’s Attorney General joined 21 states in filing a brief to defend the ACA.

Medicaid work requirements. On March 27, a federal judge struck down the Department of Health and Human Services’ approval of work requirements for Medicaid in Kentucky and Arkansas. A number of other states have received approval to begin imposing work requirements or have submitted waiver applications with the aim of doing so. The vast majority of Medicaid enrollees already work or would be exempt due to a disability or caregiving responsibilities. However, as the early evidence from Arkansas shows, clearing the hurdle of reporting these factors is extremely difficult for many. This ruling is likely to be appealed and may eventually be heard by the Supreme Court. Work requirements have been proposed in Connecticut, but the idea has not received the support necessary to become law.  We have testified in opposition to such rules that make access to basic medical care for low-income families more difficult.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As noted in our blog, Congress passed funding for SNAP in late 2018 without imposing the additional rules and restrictions proposed by the House of Representatives. However, these restrictions are now being proposed through regulations. Connecticut Voices submitted comments opposing this effort to reduce nutritional assistance to people who live in areas with high rates of unemployment. Comments are due by April 2 and can be submitted here.

Our Recent Publications

If you missed them, be sure to check out our recent fact sheets and reports:

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Health
March 28, 2019

Forum on Fixing the Child Care Crisis

A strong, affordable, high quality child care system is a key to a strong and productive economy. We invite you to join us at “Want to Grow the Economy? Fix the Child Care Crisis,” a forum co-sponsored by Connecticut Voices about how the lack of affordable child care affects both businesses and families.

Connecticut’s economic growth is one of the slowest in the country, and Governor Lamont has vowed to lead the state to an economic resurgence.  This will require public and private investment, leadership and—affordable, accessible, high quality child care.  A recently released national study points to $57 billion in lost earnings, productivity and revenue due to the lack of affordable, accessible child care.

Join us and our partners at this forum to learn about steps we can take to support parents, children, and businesses:

  • When: Tuesday, April 2, 2019, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • Where: Legislative Office Building, Room 1D, 300 Capitol Ave, Hartford

Learn more about the forum

Issue Area:
Early Care
March 26, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: Reforming the justice system, expanding early care and health care

Speaking Out on Juvenile Justice and Health Care

This week, Connecticut Voices staff are submitting testimony in support of legislation that would reform our justice system and improve health equity:

  • Improving transparency in the justice system. We support Senate Bill 880, which would require Connecticut’s Division of Criminal Justice to produce public reports on prosecutorial data, including defendant demographics, alleged offenses, sentencing decisions, diversionary offerings, and plea deal offerings. This will allow Connecticut to detect points of racial bias within our justice system, and transparent data reporting will strengthen the procedural justice of our system.
  • Promoting age-appropriate treatment of court-involved youth. We support House Bill 7387, which would offer youth the opportunity to participate in a court-ordered class or program and allow courts to favorably consider the successful completion of a program when determining whether the case should remain in juvenile court. It is inappropriate to incarcerate youth in adult prisons, and Connecticut should be working to ensure that fewer children are tried as adults.
  • Removing youth from adult correction facilities. We support sections of House Bill 7389 that would remove youth under the age of 18 from the jurisdiction of the Department of Correction, and implement recommendations of the Office of the Child Advocate pertaining to suicide, solitary confinement, behavioral health programming, family engagement, and use of force against youth in conditions of confinement.
  • Improving health equity through community health workers. We support Senate Bill 859, which would establish a community health worker certification process as a step towards health equity in Connecticut. Community health workers come from the communities where they work and address barriers to health care and unmet needs.  They can help to close the gap between a person’s life circumstances and the treatment available through traditional health systems.

You can find additional recent testimony on our website.

 

Moving Forward on Early Education and Health Care Bills

Legislative committees recently gave children and families cause to celebrate. The Education Committee voted to approve two bills that would expand eligibility for the Care 4 Kids child care subsidy program – Senate Bills 933 and 934. These bills have been referred to the Appropriations Committee for a vote. For more on these proposals, see our testimony. The Committee also approved Senate Bill 936, which implements recommendations of the Office of Early Childhood.

Legislation that would provide Medicaid and HUSKY B coverage to all uninsured, income-eligible children, regardless of their immigration status, was approved by the Human Services Committee. See our testimony for our recommendations on Senate Bill 1053.

The Human Service and Insurance Committees have, respectively, approved two bills with a goal of establishing a public health insurance coverage option -- House Bills 7339 and 7267. To learn more about these bills and our recommendations, see our testimony on House Bill 7339, which would create a working group to make recommendations about the establishment of a public option and House Bill 7267, which would create a public option plan.

 

Issue Areas:
Early Care, Health, Juvenile Justice

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