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Voices Speaking

July 20, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (XXVII): A Budget that Puts Families First

Roger Senserrich

In today's email:

 

The State Budget Negotiations

Negotiations over the Connecticut state budget continue. Legislative leaders and the Governor have been talking behind closed doors during the past week, but they continue to disagree on numerous issues. House and Senate leadership have postponed the planned budget vote scheduled for today until the end of the month. At stake: ensuring opportunity for the next generation while closing a two-year $5 billion deficit.

Action Alert: A Budget that Puts Families First

Connecticut’s children and families need your help. Call your legislators today, and tell them that Connecticut needs a budget that puts families first, with a balanced approach that includes new revenue. It is time for the state to focus on building a strong foundation for equitable economic growth by investing in education, infrastructure and health care, with a budget that is based upon long-term strategies and solid state finances, not short-term cuts.

Connecticut faces a choice: we can adopt a balanced approach that combines making children and families our main priority with new revenue, or we can rely on cuts that hurt the most vulnerable, reduce opportunity, and endanger our future. It is time to raise our voices and ask our legislators to make the right choice for children and families in the state.

Click here to find your legislator’s contact information. Read below for more information on revenue options for Connecticut and talking points for your call.

 

Upcoming Event: Wallingford Town Hall Meeting with Legislators

Senator Len Fasano, Representative Vincent Candelora, and Representative Craig Fishbein are hosting a town hall today Tuesday July 18 at Wallingford Town Hall, 45 S Main Street,  from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm. The event is open to the public. This is a good opportunity to make your voice heard on issues related to early childhood, education, healthcare, and the state budget.

For more information contact Chris Diorio at chris.diorio@cga.ct.gov or 1.800.842.1421.

 

Want More Action Alerts?

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

 

Infographic: A Balanced Budget Approach

We just released a new infographic arguing for a better approach for the Connecticut state budget - one that includes investment in Connecticut’s future, tax reform, and new revenue to get the state back on track.

 

 

Click here to download the PDF. Click here for the interactive version..

 

ACA Repeal Update: Victory, for now

Last week, Senate Republicans released an updated version of their Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal effort, after their first proposal failed to gather enough support. This new version is broadly similar to the previous draft, with one glaring exception: the bill will allow insurance companies to offer plans that do not cover essential benefits or pre-existing conditions. In other words, a return to the “junk insurance” plans that were sadly common before the ACA became law.

The bill, however, failed again to gather enough support. By yesterday evening, four senators have announced their opposition, forcing Senate leaders to withdraw it from consideration. Senate leadership announced a new strategy of outright repeal of most of the ACA provisions, a bill that if passed would leave more than 32 million people without health insurance. The proposal appears to be faltering as well, bringing the ACA repeal effort to an end.

There might another repeal effort in the coming months. The Trump administration can use its regulatory powers to weaken the law. For now, however, the ACA is the law of the land, and with it, millions of Americans will remain insured.

 

What We Are Reading

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Health
July 13, 2017

Infographic: a Better Approach to the State Budget

The state budget is the clearest statement of Connecticut's policy priorities. Connecticut needs a balanced approach that combines strategic spending with new revenue. See the our infographic below and full Revenue Options brief for more detail.

Click here to download the PDF.

Issue Area:
Budget and Tax
Tags:
budget, Connecticut, priorities, revenue, taxes
July 12, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (XXVI): Executive Orders

Roger Senserrich

In today's email:

 

Budget by Executive Order

Connecticut is currently operating without a state budget. June 30th was the last day of the 2017 fiscal year (FY17), and the General Assembly could not reach an agreement before that deadline. As a result, the state government is currently operating using last year’s budget. This means, however, that the budget is sorely out of balance, forcing the Governor to make severe cuts to many programs by executive order so that the state does not fall further into debt during this time.

Nevertheless, there are a few things that the Governor cannot cut that are legally required to be funded: state government must continue making payments on bonded debt, pension, and retiree health care contributions; Medicaid services bound by federal law, and court-ordered child welfare services.

The rest of the budget will see severe cuts across the board, with huge impacts in programs that directly serve children and families. Education funding for municipalities will see a $515 million cut (25 percent). Funding for priority school districts is cut by $42 million (100 percent). Medicaid funding sees a $75 million reduction. School-based health centers see a 25 percent cut. Teen pregnancy programs are cut by half. Care 4 Kids will remain closed. The executive order also significantly curtails payments to many non-profit providers that provide direct services to low-income families. You can find the full text of the executive order, plus supporting documents, here.

As we noted in our public statement last week, Connecticut's current fiscal crisis is the result of years of short-term budget thinking and a failure to address our state's economic challenges. Connecticut needs a stable, responsible budget, with real structural reforms. This shift will not be easy - but it is increasingly clear that the time for short-term, easy solutions is over. We believe that working together, Connecticut can fashion a balanced budget that will support long-term growth and equitable opportunity.

 

The House Democrats’ Budget Proposal

Just before the end of the fiscal year we saw the introduction of another budget proposal in the Capitol (by our count, the 11th such proposal this year), this time by the House Democrats. The document largely follows the broader lines of the previous Democratic proposal we described in our recent budget analysis, with a few changes. The most significant features of this proposal are:

  • Reducing eligibility for HUSKY A parents to 138% of the federal poverty level, without introducing copayments.
  • Making smaller cuts than the Governor’s proposals for school-based health centers and community health centers.
  • Creating a commission to study changes to the Education Cost Sharing Formula, without cutting funding.
  • Adding some additional funding to Care 4 Kids child care program, special education, charter and magnet schools.
  • Eliminating the Office of Early Childhood, integrating it with the Department of Education.
  • Including some new revenue: a modest increase to the sales tax, as well as a one percent surcharge on restaurant meals that will go to the municipality where they are located.

Overall, the proposal looks a lot like the previous Democratic proposals. This latest one is still an austerity budget that is mostly reliant on cuts, without really tackling Connecticut’s long-term budget woes. However, the inclusion of a bit more revenue and smaller cuts than in other budgets means this budget is a step in the right direction.

House and Senate leadership are expecting to reconvene on July 18th for a vote on this budget proposal. It is unclear if the budget has the votes to pass, or if Governor Malloy would veto the proposal in its current form. We will keep you posted.

 

Why the Office of Early Childhood is Important

The Democrats’ budget proposal seeks to merge the Office Early Childhood (OEC) into the Department of Education (SDE).

The move is reportedly a response to the current underfunding of Care 4 Kids; the program is currently closed to new applicants. The idea is that by placing it under SDE, the program will have access to a larger pool of funding, and it will be easier to protect the child care program from further cuts, as the state can find other resources within this department.

We saw similar proposals during the legislative session, either moving pieces or merging the whole OEC into other departments. We remain skeptical that this change would make early care and education programs stronger.

First, the OEC was created with the aim of consolidating under one roof the dizzying variety of programs and funding streams related to early childhood in the state, and thereby blending and braiding funding streams to make more efficient use of existing resources. The OEC has been very successful at improving licensing, promoting professional development for providers, and bringing tens of millions of dollars to the state in competitive national grants. Moving all early childhood programs to SDE would weaken this structure and the early care and education system as a whole.

Second, when Care 4 Kids was managed by the Department of Social Services, it saw severe cuts between 2002 and 2005 - a period during which enrollment dropped by half - leading to long-term program closure. Access to other funding streams would likely prove elusive in the context of diminishing federal funding and competing priorities with local school districts.  Given the experience of Care 4 Kids in DSS, we doubt that moving OEC into SDE will address potential future funding shortfalls in Care 4 Kids.

 

ACA: new developments

Congress was in recess last week, meaning that Senators were back in their districts hearing from constituents about the ACA repeal effort. Behind the scenes, negotiations have continued, with several proposals under discussion. The Congressional Budget Office is scoring at least two new versions of the bill, including one that will open the door to eliminating most protections for pre-existing conditions. Senate leaders intend to put the bill to a vote before the end of the month, but several legislators say that any vote is still weeks away.

The bill, if passed in its current form, would have dire consequences for Connecticut. More than 190,000 adults that benefited from the Medicaid expansion in Connecticut would lose coverage. The state could lose up to $11.9 billion in federal funding between 2020 and 2026 once the Medicaid cuts start phasing in.

Although Senate Republicans are having difficulties getting enough of their caucus on board to pass the bill (with 52 Senators, they can only afford to lose 3 votes), the ACA is still in real danger. The fight is far from over.

What can you do to help stop this bill?

  • Connecticut’s U.S. Senators are 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.
  • Do you have any friends or relatives who live in states represented by Republican Senators? Call your friends and family, reach them on social media, email them, and urge them to call their Senators. Tell them to share their stories, and to urge them to oppose the repeal. This is going to be a very close vote. Every single call helps.

 

Action Alert: Home Visiting Reauthorization

The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program is a federal initiative that facilitates collaboration and partnership at the federal, state, and community levels to improve the health of at-risk children through evidence-based home visiting programs. The program is due for reauthorization this summer - and we need your support.

The Home Visiting Coalition has a petition to ask Congress to fully fund and expand the program. You can sign it here. They are also organizing a day of action Wednesday July 12th. You can find more information on how to participate on their website.

 

In Case You Missed It: the Economic Impact of High-Quality Early Care

In our new report, we look at the economic impact of high-quality early care in Connecticut.

Access to high-quality, affordable early childhood education boosts the state's economy: in the short term by letting parents continue to work and in the long term by improving lifelong outcomes for children, better preparing the next generation for work and for life.

In this report, we estimate the value of Connecticut's current early child care system to children, parents, and our state, both short-term and long-term. Providing enough high-quality child care to meet Connecticut’s needs could generate $13.4 billion in long-term benefits to the state.

You can download the report here. We would like to thank the Connecticut Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, a project of the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy for supporting this research.

 

What We Are Reading/ Listening to

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Early Care, Health
July 7, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (XXV): Delayed Repeals, Delayed Budgets

Roger Senserrich

In today's email:

 

The Affordable Care Act is Still in Real Danger

Even with the delayed Senate vote, the Affordable Care Act is still in danger.

Last week, Senate Republicans finally made public their Affordable Care Act Repeal proposal. The “Better Health Care Act” looks similar to the one already passed by the House of Representatives. Although the Senate bill pegs tax credits to purchase insurance to income, unlike the House version, those credits are not enough to make exchange plans affordable for older individuals. Instead of having to pay extra for insurance if coverage lapses under the House version, the Senate bill imposes a six-month waiting period.

The broad outline, however, is the same: the bill includes deep cuts to Medicaid, huge tax cuts for the wealthy, and will result in 15 million people losing their access to health insurance next year - and 22 million by 2026. In addition, out-of-pocket health care costs will soar, as the new insurance plans will offer less coverage. Connecticut’s uninsured rate would almost double, with more than 160,000 people losing coverage. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has a more detailed breakdown here. You can read the Congressional Budget Office report about the proposed bill here.

The initial plan was to vote on the repeal bill this week, but Senate leaders have decided to postpone the vote. Senate Republicans hold a 52-48 majority, so they can only afford to lose two votes. Republican lawmakers are well aware of the devastating impact of their proposal, and many harbor doubts about how to vote. Senate leaders have signaled that they will try again to pass the bill after the July 4th recess, so the fight is far from over.  

What can you do to help stop this bill?

  • Our U.S. Senators are 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.
  • Do you have any friends or relatives that live in states represented by Republican Senators? Call them, reach them on social media, e-mail them, and urge them to call their Senator. Tell them to share their stories, and to urge them to oppose the repeal. This is going to be a very close vote. Every single call helps.

 

Budget Deadlines: Off a Cliff

Last week, we discussed what would happen if Connecticut reached the end of its fiscal year without passing a budget, and shared CT Mirror’s piece, “Without a CT budget by July 1, the options are all bad”.

Yesterday, the Governor presented legislators with two options: an executive order with draconian cuts across the board, or a “mini-budget” with some new revenue for the next three months and smaller cuts. The General Assembly, however, failed to reach an agreement to pass any budget, even the three-month proposal offered by the Governor. The fiscal year ends this Friday, and the state will indeed not have a budget by that deadline, so the worst case scenario will come to pass.

This is bad news. 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. A prolonged budget standoff will hurt social services, put immense pressure on municipal budgets, and have a huge impact on children and families in need.

Right now, policymakers seem far from a budget deal. We have a long road ahead.

 

2017 Legislative Session Review

The 2017 legislative session is over. Due to the budget situation, legislators focused on fiscal issues this year, meaning that legislative activity in other areas was lower than usual.

Despite this, the General Assembly did consider and pass a significant number of bills that affect children and families, as well as some important provisions that will directly impact the state´s long-term fiscal health.

In our new policy brief, we provide an overview of the 2017 legislative session, with a focus on bills affecting fiscal policy, education, youth opportunity and family wellbeing. Click here to download the report.     

 

What We Are Reading/ Listening to

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Health
June 30, 2017

Statement on Connecticut's Budget Situation: Holding Back Future Generations

Sharon Langer, M.Ed., J.D.

Connecticut Voices for Children strongly believes that a fiscally responsible and stable state budget is the cornerstone for equitable economic growth. The only way to build a strong foundation for long-term inclusive economic prosperity is having a state government with solid finances that is willing and able to support long-term strategies for economic growth and equitable opportunity.

Connecticut's current fiscal crisis is the result of years of short-term budget thinking and a failure to address our state's economic challenges. During the past few months, Connecticut policymakers have struggled with the daunting task of closing a budget gap not of their own making. After years of short-term fixes, they are now confronted with a harsh fiscal reality with no easy solutions.

As the Governor and the Legislature go back to the drawing board this special session, we urge them to ground their work in an understanding of the economic, demographic, and political changes which have created today's ever-growing challenge.

The state budget is the clearest statement of Connecticut's policy priorities. Working from our strengths, and with the courage to address our weaknesses, we can build a more inclusive economy that enables all families to thrive, provides quality education for all children from cradle to career, and provides the support services necessary to ensure that no child is left behind.

To achieve these priorities, the Governor and General Assembly must seek a balanced approach that combines smart, strategic spending in key budget priorities with tax reforms that assure fairness, stability, predictability, and adequacy. Connecticut needs a stable, responsible budget, with real structural reforms, rejecting the crisis-driven, short-term approach that has marked state fiscal policy for years. Legislators should create a stable revenue stream by modernizing Connecticut's tax structure to reflect its changing economy, which is increasingly built on services rather than goods. This will require combining bold revenue reforms with a strategic rethinking of budget priorities that include a renewed willingness for forward-looking investments in education, workforce development, and health.

We understand that this shift will not be easy; Connecticut's fiscal woes are deep, and fixing them will require making many hard decisions. Connecticut Voices for Children believes, however, that working together we can reach a balanced budget that ensures that our state is an attractive place to find a job, start a business, and raise a family. It is time for everyone that cares about the future of our state to set our differences aside and work towards this common goal. 

Issue Area:
Budget and Tax
June 26, 2017

Webinar: A Better Approach for the State Budget

Connecticut's budget is the clearest statement of its policy priorities. As such, it should prioritize revenue and expense options that advance long-term inclusive economic prosperity, improve equity, and prepare our children for success.

The current budget proposals adopt an austerity mindset.  

They contain little new revenue and, to the extent they do bring in additional revenue, do so by raising taxes on low- to middle-income families by cutting or eliminating the earned income tax credit and property tax credit. At the same time, they provide some 600 of the state's wealthiest families with an average tax break of $100,000. That's not shared sacrifice. It is not a recipe for long-term growth and shared prosperity. 

In this webinar, we provide an overview of the state budget, solutions to avoid yet another a cuts-only approach, and ways to take action. You can watch the presentation below. Click here to download the slides.

Issue Area:
Budget and Tax
Tags:
#CTbudget, budget, Connecticut, Webinar