June 13, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (XXIII): The Hard Work Is Ahead

Roger Senserrich

In today's email:

 

Not Over Yet: the Special Session

The legislative session came to a close Wednesday, June 7 at midnight. Any bill that had failed to pass by that deadline was discarded.

It was not an especially productive session. The budget was at the front and center of all the debates, and that meant that many bills received less attention that they would have otherwise. There was, however, some good news; our preliminary session recap will provide a summary later this week.

Because there was no budget agreement, the General Assembly is set to reconvene as early as next week for a “special session” to approve the state budget for the next two years.

A Special Session is a meeting of the General Assembly called for a particular purpose. As such, no bills outside the narrow list of tasks that the session was called for are allowed. For this special session in particular, lawmakers will be focused on the budget, with the aim of getting one passed before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

In addition, the content from some failed bills may end up in an “implementer” budget bill during the upcoming special session. The implementer bill makes changes to laws as a result of changes in the state budget.   

 

Budget Deadlines

What happens if no budget has passed before the end of the fiscal year? Keith Phaneuf recently provided an overview in the CT Mirror about that possibility. Under that scenario, the Governor would have to operate the state under the previous year’s budget:

“While the bottom line on spending does not change, contractually obligated increases will cost an extra $950 million next fiscal year.

And on the other side of the ledger, analysts say the current revenue system will produce $800 million less in 2017-18.

That means the governor faces a fixed bottom line, at least $950 million more in fixed costs and $800 million less in revenue. The combined $1.75 billion squeeze is expected to delay or force cutbacks in payments to community-based social service agencies, aid to municipalities and other various other programs.”

Under this scenario, the Governor makes month-by-month decisions regarding how much to fund programs and services. State contracts for community-based services, such as residential group homes, mental health services, and many, many others are not guaranteed any payments under contracts with the states.  Delays or reductions in payments could lead to staff layoffs and closure of programs within the private provider community.

 

A Call to Action

Connecticut’s budget is the clearest statement of its policy priorities. As such, it should prioritize both revenue and spending options that advance long-term inclusive economic prosperity, improve equity, and assure support for our most vulnerable residents.

We believe that all children should be able to reach their full potential.The budget should reflect our commitment as a state to fulfill that goal. Quality, equitable education, healthy children and families, a well-qualified workforce, and solid infrastructures are the cornerstones of economic growth, and should be our main budget priority. A cuts-only approach to the state budget, like we have seen time and time again in this year's budget proposals, weakens the foundations of current and future economic growth in the state.

Call your legislators and tell them that they need a balanced approach that seeks new revenue by modernizing the sales tax system, requiring greater scrutiny of business tax breaks, and reforming the weakened corporate tax. The state has already taking steps to increase oversight for business tax incentives, adopting legislation that will evaluate these programs. Now it is a good time to call your legislators and thank them for their support, but also remind them that we need more. Connecticut must raise critically needed revenue that ensures the future stability of our revenue system.

Click here to find out how to contact your legislator. For more information on revenue options for Connecticut, click here.

 

The Affordable Care Act is in Real Danger

Senate Republicans are making steady progress in their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). New reports suggest that the negotiators are close to reaching an agreement on a new bill that is expected to look similar to the one already passed by the House of Representatives.

In an unusual move, the draft is not expected to be made public. The bill will be sent directly to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for scoring, and will only be made public once the CBO completes its report. Senate leadership intends to bring the bill to a vote before the end of the month, meaning that the proposal will barely have any public debate before it goes to the floor. A bill that could potentially leave tens of millions of people without health insurance is being drafted and pushed forward in almost complete secrecy by a small group of senators. In contrast, when the ACA was under consideration there were many public hearings before Congress.  

For more information on the ACA repeal efforts and its impact in Connecticut, click here. Our Senate delegation is opposed to the repeal efforts. We encourage you to call them to share your story about why the ACA is important, and thank them for their support. You can find their contact information here.

 

Events

CT Cross-Disability Lifespan Alliance Press Conference: The Connecticut Cross Disability Lifespan Alliance will host a press conference at the Legislative Office Building, Room 1B, on June 14, 11AM, to call for a more equitable and balanced approach to the budget. The group will advocate for a budget that does not rely solely on cuts, but includes new revenue and forward-looking tax reform to  preserves vital services for people with disabilities. Derek Thomas, our Fiscal Policy Fellow, will be one of the speakers.  

CT Data Days: Equip, Synthesize, and Mobilize with Data: CT Data Collaborative will continue its conference series next Friday June 23 from 8:30AM to 12:15PM at the Omni Hotel in New Haven. The conference draws municipal leaders, state agency staff, nonprofit organizations, and community organizations in conversations about data use and production across the state. Our Fiscal Policy Fellow, Derek Thomas, will present an overview of the state budget as well as details on the four budget proposals for the next biennium during the 9AM session. Attendance is free - register here.

 

What We Are Reading/ Listening to

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Family Economic Security, Health