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Voices Speaking

October 11, 2017

Action Alert - Spending Cap Puts Key Programs at Risk

The spending cap has become a central issue in the current bipartisan budget negotiations. While a spending cap can be vital for preventing runaway spending, an overly restrictive cap would mean that Connecticut can no longer makes opportunity for children and families a priority. Unfortunately, proposed changes to the spending cap would have that effect, limiting the state’s ability to meet vital needs today or key priorities tomorrow.

  • Force the state to choose between vital priorities by including state aid to distressed municipalities under the cap;
  • Hamstring our ability to meet the changing needs of vulnerable populations and restrict the state’s capacity to respond to changes in federal policy;
  • Incentivize legislators to hide federal funds in non-appropriated accounts, making the budget process less transparent;
  • Reduce the effectiveness of state programs by including state money to implement federal programs under the cap; and
  • Accelerate the shrinking of the share of the budget devoted to children by punishing the state for attempting to make up for previous mismanagement of pension liabilities.

If the General Assembly passes a budget with a three-fifths majority vote—a possibility if a compromise budget emerges from current negotiations—the spending cap would affect far more than our funding for two years, as it would likely have constitutional force. We urge you to contact legislative leadership today and call for a spending cap driven by a commitment to meeting vital needs, strengthening our cities and towns, and spurring equitable economic growth.

Click here to find your legislator. Our full report on the spending cap is avaiable here

Issue Area:
Budget and Tax
October 9, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (XXXVII): The Friday the 13th Vote

Roger Senserrich

In today’s email:

Budget updates: The Friday the 13th Vote

As expected, the General Assembly did not overturn Governor Malloy’s veto on the latest budget proposal. Although the House convened Tuesday for a vote, no legislator called for a motion to reconsider the bill. Despite calls from some legislators for a second override session, the Speaker is unlikely to bring this budget back for a vote again, meaning we are truly back in square one.

The plan, for now, is for the General Assembly to convene again on Friday, October 13th - the last possible date to get a budget on the books and signed by the Governor before November 1st. Local governments are already grappling with big budget cuts as several municipal grants were dramatically reduced this month; any further delays in the vote could tip Hartford towards insolvency.

Budget talks continue apace, with taxes, structural reforms and the spending cap being the main sticking points. The CT Mirror has a good overview here; read some additional notes on the spending cap below.

Call to Action: A Budget that Represents Our Values

Connecticut urgently needs a state budget grounded in a commitment to economic growth, equity, and good fiscal governance. Any further delay only weakens our schools, towns, and social services, placing a growing burden on those most vulnerable.

The solution to Connecticut’s budget woes should not look backwards and rely on old ways of doing business. Cutting spending with no new taxes or raising taxes without making strategic spending decisions might balance the budget this year, but it will not address the long-term challenges Connecticut faces. We need a new approach that builds a strong foundation for Connecticut: a state budget that results in thriving families, equitable opportunity, and fiscal responsibility. Doing so will require bold action, fearing not taxes or structural reforms but rather the lost potential of our children, families, and communities.

Call your legislators and tell them we need a budget that moves Connecticut forward toward equitable economic growth, increased opportunity, and sustainable, efficient government.

Click here to find your legislator and contact them today. Click here to download our latest brief mapping a path forward for Connecticut using ideas and proposals shared across party lines.

Want More Action Alerts?

As the budget negotiations continue, we will be sending more action alerts to our "Voices from the Capitol" mailing list. Make sure you are subscribed here.

Implementing the Spending Cap

As reported in the CT Mirror, one of the points of contention between Republicans and Democrats to reach a budget agreement is defining the spending. Both parties included changes to the current statutory cap in the budget proposals. We testified this past legislative session about the importance of the spending cap, warning that a badly designed cap could do more harm than good to the state economy.

Today we are publishing an expanded analysis of both the Republican and Democratic proposals, as well as an assessment on whether a statutory cap is an effective tool to promote good fiscal governance in the state. You can download the report here.

Federal Update: A Tax Cut for the Wealthy, A Health Care Mess

With the ACA repeal finally behind us (at least for now), there are two main issues facing Congress that warrant our attention: the Republican tax proposal, and health care programs that need reauthorization.

The Republican tax proposal:

The White House and Republican leaders in Congress presented their framework for a tax reform last week. The overall picture is a big tax cut overwhelmingly tilted toward the richest taxpayers in the country; working families would be largely an afterthought, with some even seeing a tax increase. In Connecticut, 82.6 percent of the tax cuts would benefit the richest one percent of taxpayers. The Institute on Taxation and Policy has the numbers here.

The tax cuts will have a huge impact on the federal budget, adding $1.5 trillion to deficits over ten years. This could lead to significant cuts to social programs, if they are eventually paid following the budget cuts proposed by Republicans in Congress. CBPP has more.

Health care reauthorizations: CHIP, CHIME and MIECHV

Congress let funding for three critical programs run out last week: the Children´s Insurance Program (CHIP); the Community Health Investment, Modernization, and Excellence (CHIME) Act; and the Maternal, Infant, and Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) program. We explain in some detail what these programs entail here.

If funding is not reinstated soon, program impacts will be severe for Connecticut families. 2,738 children and families receive services under MIECHV; Karen Siegel, our Health Policy Fellow, provides a good overview on how the loss of CHIP funding will impact Connecticut in the coming months. Right now, the Senate and House have two-different bills to reauthorize the programs; the House proposal includes damaging cuts to ACA and Medicare programs funding CHIP. These are bipartisan programs, so we are cautiously hopeful that reauthorizations will pass before next year.

Save the Date: First for Kids Awards

Thursday November 9, 2017

5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Please join us for an evening of music, mingling, and celebration as we honor three outstanding voices for Connecticut’s children.

When: Thursday, November 9, 2017, 5:00 to 7:00 pm

Where: Pond House Café, 1555 Asylum Avenue, West Hartford

The 2017 First for Kids Honorees

  • Sharon Langer: Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Arielle Levin Becker: Media Voice Award
  • Vincent Espino: Youth Voice Award

To register, click here.

What We Are Reading

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Health
October 2, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (XXXVI): The October 1st Deadline

Roger Senserrich

In today’s email:

Budget updates: the October 1st Deadline

Back to square one. Governor Malloy vetoed today the budget proposal passed by the General Assembly two weeks ago. In his message, the Governor called the budget “unbalanced, unsustainable, and unwise.” It is unlikely that the General Assembly will be able to override the veto.

Legislative leaders and the Governor, then, are back negotiating a budget. It is not clear when the General Assembly will convene again to vote on another proposal. As of now, it seems likely that the state will not have a new budget by October 1st, meaning that the municipalities will face steep cuts to education grants and PILOT payments in the coming weeks. We explained the impacts of local funding cuts here.

Call to Action: A Budget that Represent Our Values

The solution to Connecticut’s budget woes should not look backwards and rely on old ways of doing business. Cutting spending with no new taxes or raising taxes without making strategic spending decisions might balance the budget this year, but it will not address the long-term challenges Connecticut faces. We need a new approach, grounded in a commitment to economic growth, equity, and good fiscal governance. Doing so will require bold action, fearing not taxes or structural reforms but rather the lost potential of our children, families, and communities.

Call your legislators and tell them we need a budget that moves Connecticut forward toward equitable economic growth, increased opportunity, and sustainable, efficient government.

Click here to find your legislator - contact them today. Click here to download our latest brief mapping a path forward for Connecticut using ideas and proposals shared across party lines.

Want More Action Alerts?

As the budget negotiations continue, we will be sending more action alerts to our "Voices from the Capitol" mailing list. Make sure you are subscribed here.

The Budget: Short and Long-Term Fixes

There are some other important news regarding the state budget - one regarding a short-term fix, the other about Connecticut's fiscal health even after a budget passes.  

  • Recent budget proposals have included a hospital tax as a source of revenue. This tax would enable the state to claim additional Medicaid funding that would revert back to the hospitals, and net $365 million on the general fund. It is a complicated scheme that is also under a strict deadline: Connecticut has to claim the funds by mid-October. The Hospital Association has agreed to the plan. The General Assembly will likely vote on the tax increase separately if there is no budget agreement in sight to preserve this funding, although a pending lawsuit might be a stumbling block.
  • In our recent budget analysis, we stated that neither the Republican nor the Democratic budget proposals included the structural reforms needed to put an end to Connecticut´s persistent budget woes. The Office of Fiscal Analysis’ estimate on the long-term impact of the proposals projects that, under the Republican proposal, the state would face a $3.31 billion deficit between 2019 and 2021. Under the Democrat's proposal, the shortfall would be $3.58 billion. The CT Mirror has an overview.

Federal Update: The ACA Might Be Safe for Now

There is a lot going on at the federal level this week  - and for once, there is plenty of good news. Here is an overview of the things we are following:

  • The Affordable Care Act seems to be safe, at least for now. Senate leaders admitted early this week that they did not have enough votes to pass Cassidy-Graham, the latest ACA repeal proposal.
  • Although they might try again with a new repeal bill at a later date, the collapse of this effort is especially significant, as reconciliation instructions expire by the end of the month. As a result, any standalone repeal effort will require 60 votes in the Senate, not the current 50. It’s still possible that Congressional Republicans might try to combine a repeal bill with the upcoming tax reform proposal or chip away at protections through amendments to other bills. The ACA has been declared safe before only for another repeal effort to emerge. We will keep you posted.
  • Congressional Republicans presented their framework for tax reform this week; CBPP has the highlights. The main takeaway is that the proposal would provide a huge windfall to high-income households, with working families being largely an afterthought. One provision, the repeal of the state and local tax deduction, will hit Connecticut taxpayers especially hard.
  • Congress is working on the reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), as funding runs out by the end of the month. For technical reasons, money won't just run out by October 1st; states still have funding from previous payments. Families USA has a good overview; here is our policy brief for Connecticut.
  • Another program pending reauthorization is Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV). The House passed a 5-year extension to the program that would require states to match the funds in the future; the Senate bill does not include this match.  
  • Finally, there is the  Community Health Investment, Modernization and Excellence (CHIME) Act to provide funding to community health centers. Again, funding runs out by the end of the month. Our partners and Community Catalyst have more.

Save the Date: First for Kids Awards

Thursday November 9, 2017

5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Please join us for an evening of music, mingling, and celebration as we honor three outstanding voices for Connecticut’s children.

When: Thursday, November 9, 2017, 5:00 to 7:00 pm

Where: Pond House Café, 1555 Asylum Avenue, West Hartford

The 2017 First for Kids Honorees

  • Sharon Langer: Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Arielle Levin Becker: Media Voice Award
  • Vincent Espino: Youth Voice Award

What We Are Reading

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Health
September 25, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (XXXV): A Budget that Represents Our Values

Roger Senserrich

In today’s email:

A Budget that Represents Our Values

Connecticut's budget provides the clearest statement of its values and priorities. Our state's stalemate thus reflects long-running debates over what exactly those values and priorities should be. The intensity of the discussion and the passionate disagreements it has engendered demonstrate both the depth of our fiscal woes and the importance of the issues at hand.

No single party or faction has all the answers. At this point, compromise is necessary to move forward, and the only way to reach a compromise is to look to values shared by all involved. We believe that the state budget should be grounded in three guiding values:

  • Economic Growth: Connecticut's budget should promote increased prosperity for all its residents.

  • Equity: Connecticut's budget should help ensure that all residents have an equitable opportunity to thrive.

  • Structural Integrity: Connecticut's budget should ensure a sustainable, accountable, and independent government.

As lawmakers and the Governor gather again to continue negotiations, we urge them to return to these values, which have defined our priorities as a state. In our new policy brief, we highlight several policies from both budgets that are consistent with these values, mapping out a way forward for Connecticut.

Click here to open the report.

The Budget: Next Steps

Last week both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed a budget which Governor Malloy has announced he will veto.

As we mentioned in our policy brief last week, the budget adopted by the General Assembly  includes deep cuts to higher education, college scholarships, and health coverage; increases taxes for low-income families, and relies on hypothetical future savings to balance. We need a budget that will grow the economy, reduce the drastic disparity in opportunity afforded to our children and families, and enact meaningful structural reform.   

Governor Malloy vetoing the budget creates an opportunity to build a budget that better contributes to economic growth, equity, and structural integrity than either of the previous proposals. Time is of the essence. Without a passage of budget come October 1st, municipalities will not receive a significant portion of education cost-sharing funding and municipal aid grants.

Call to Action: Ask Malloy to Veto this Budget

Both budget proposals voted on last Friday fail to build strong foundations for economic growth, promote equitable opportunity for all its residents, or put the state on solid fiscal footing.

This is why we ask you to call Governor Malloy today and ask him to veto the budget proposal passed by the legislature. The document that Governor Malloy has on its desk looks backward, protecting old ways of doing business. We need a budget that looks forward, invests in our shared success, and assures accountability and transparency in our governance.  

Please call Governor Malloy at 1 (800) 406-1527 and ask him to veto the budget.

Want More Action Alerts?

As the budget negotiations continue, we will be sending more action alerts to our "Voices from the Capitol" mailing list. Make sure you are subscribed here.

Federal Update: The ACA and Medicaid at Risk - Again

Last week, we mentioned that Senate Republicans were again considering another bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The proposal, promoted by Senators Cassidy and Graham, has gained traction in recent days and it is slated to come up for a vote on the Senate floor next week.

The Cassidy-Graham bill is in many ways a more radical break with the ACA than previous repeal attempts. At its core, the bill takes all the current ACA funding dedicated to Medicaid and premium subsidies and transfers them to the states, reducing funding levels every year until 2026, and completely eliminating funding thereafter. The bill also redistributes funding in a way that greatly penalizes states that expanded Medicaid. As a result, Connecticut will lose more than $2.3 billion in funding by 2026, with devastating effect for families and children across the state. To make things worse, the funding comes with few restrictions, allowing states to gut protections for people with preexisting conditions.

Our Senate delegation firmly opposes the bill. It is unclear, right now, if Republicans have enough votes to pass the repeal bill. We encourage you to call Senator Blumenthal and Senator Murphy and thank them for their opposition to this bill.

What We Are Reading

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Health
September 15, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (XXXIV): Budget Day

Roger Senserrich

In today’s email:

Budget News: a Big Vote Today

The Connecticut General Assembly is planning on voting on a new budget today. There are two proposals on the table; a new budget agreement between the Governor and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, and an updated Republican proposal. House Democrats have said that they plan to bring their proposal to a vote; Republican leaders are expecting that the House will also consider their budget and bring it to a floor vote.

Some of final details are still unclear, but here is what we know about these two proposals. Neither offers a truly balanced approach: one that includes both shared sacrifice and shared opportunity, addresses the structural causes of our persistent deficits, and makes strategic investments in children as part of of equitable growth strategy.

You can download our policy report here, with a brief analysis of each budget area based on the information currently available.

Still Important: Call Your Legislators

The solution to Connecticut’s budget woes lies not with a pure austerity approach, tax hikes for working families, or short-term revenue tweaks. Rather we need a new approach, a balanced approach, grounded in a commitment to economic growth, shared prosperity, and equitable opportunity for every child in our state.

Neither of these budget proposals follow this path. It is time to call your legislators and ask for a better approach.

As the General Assembly heads for what could be the final budget vote, now it is the time to call your legislators and voice your support for a balanced budget approach that builds a strong foundation for the future. Let’s support strategic economic growth grounded in a firm commitment to equitable opportunity. It is the right thing to do. It is the smart thing to do.

Click here to find your legislator - contact them today.

Want More Action Alerts?

As the budget negotiations continue, we will be sending more action alerts to our "Voices from the Capitol" mailing list. Make sure you are subscribed here.

Early Care and Education Closures

In a new blog post, Daniel Long, our Senior Education Policy Fellow, talks about how child care center closures have increased by 55 percent in Connecticut in 2016-2017 compared to the previous year:

Affordable quality child care is essential to promote healthy child development, enable parents to work, and ensure that children enter school ready to learn. Recent data show an alarming decline in the number of child care providers in our state. This decline both puts an already strained childcare system in danger and poses a threat to workforce preparedness and economic growth.   

 

Federal Update: CHIP Agreement

There have been some new developments in health care at the Federal level this week. First, The Senate Finance Committee announced an agreement to extend funding for the CHIP program for 5 years and maintain the current funding level until 2019 (see our brief for more on CHIP in Connecticut). While the state will need to plan carefully for the lower match after 2019, this could be good news IF a bill that reflects this agreement passes before September 30 (when prior funding expires).  

Second, Senate Republicans are making another push to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The plan being debated would be hugely damaging for Connecticut, reducing Medicaid funding by more than $2.2 billion. As of now, passage seems unlikely, but we will be tracking this bill closely.

What We Are Reading

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Early Care, Health
September 13, 2017

Child care center closures increased by 55% in 2016-2017 compared to previous year

Daniel Long, Ph.D.

Affordable quality child care is essential to promote healthy child development, enable parents to work, and ensure that children enter school ready to learn. Recent data show an alarming decline in the number of child care providers in our state. This decline both puts an already strained childcare system in danger and poses a threat to workforce preparedness and economic growth.   

Care 4 Kids enrollment declines in 2017

Care 4 Kids is the state child care subsidy that helps low and moderate-income working parents afford child care. The program provides a sliding-scale subsidy based on parents’ work hours and family income. Historically, 30% of families with children under 5 in Connecticut qualified under income guidelines, although qualification has not always assured access.

During the 2016 fiscal year, new federal mandates intended to improve the quality of care resulted in a $33 million shortfall in state funding, leading to the closure of Care 4 Kids to all new enrollments except families currently receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This change meant that families falling into three different groups previously eligible can no longer access support: parents who received TANF in the last five years, teenage parents, and working families who earn at or below 50% of the state median income (about $45,000 for a family of three).

The decrease in the number of families eligible for Care 4 Kids support led to a significant decline in child care enrollment. Infant/toddler enrollment fell from 8,190 in July 2016 to only 5,019 in July 2017, while preschool enrollment declined from 7,342 in May of 2016 down to 5,317 in May of 2017. As funding has not been restored for FY 2018, we expect enrollment to continue to fall throughout the coming year.

Figure 1: Infant and Toddler Enrollment in Care 4 Kids

      Source

Figure 2: Preschool Enrollment in Care 4 Kids

      Source

 

Decline in the number of licensed child care centers

Declines in child care enrollment can be tied directly to closures of child care centers. Such closures would not constitute a concern if they reflected a decline in need for care, but the data suggests the declines are due not to decreased need but to families’ decreased ability to pay.

United Way’s Childcare 2-1-1 examines the trends in program closures in Connecticut. In comparing the number of closures from fiscal year 2015-16 to those in fiscal year 2016-17, we find an increase of 55% in the number of center-based program closures. Of those centers, 50% attribute closure to lack of profitability. Two surveys conducted by the Connecticut Child Care Association, the Connecticut Association for Human Services, and the Early Childhood Alliance in the last several months showed that around half of center-based programs cited lack of profitability as the reason for closure.

Table 1: Number of closed programs

 

2014-2015

2015-2016

2016-2017

Center Based Programs

67

141

219

Source: 2-1-1 Childcare, Child Care Program Closure Reasons Reports

Table 2: Reason for Center-Based Program Closures

Reason for closure

2014-2015

2015-2016

2016-2017

Career Change

15%

2%

0%

Retired

5%

2%

3%

Moved

15%

25%

24%

Regulatory Reasons

10%

2%

5%

Business not profitable

50%

45%

52%

Source: 2-1-1 Childcare, Child Care Program Closure Reasons Reports,

 

Why? 

The closure of Care 4 Kids has led to a decline in profitability of child care centers. A survey of about 500 child care providers by the Connecticut Child Care Association reported that a major portion of child care centers’ budget comes from Care 4 Kids subsidies. Many interviews with child care providers in 2017 raised concerns that centers could not stay open without the Care 4 Kids subsidy. An additional survey of 191 providers conducted by the Connecticut Association for Human Services and the Early Childhood Alliance found that 54% of providers were “less financially healthy now than they were before the Care4Kids freeze”. 45% had to lay off staff, and 37% had to close classrooms.

The Early Childhood Alliance has reported that restoring capacity lost over the past year will take significant time, estimating that it takes at least a year to start a child care center and at least 6 months to start a family child care program. Therefore, once funding for Care 4 Kids is restored, there may be a lag of over a year before the increased need caused by the closure of Care 4 Kids is addressed. We will address these trends in greater depth and discuss policy implications in our coming State of Early Childhood Report.

Acknowledgements

Connecticut Voices would like to thank the Connecticut Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, a project of the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy, for their generous support for this research.

Issue Area:
Early Care