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Voices Speaking

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
September 8, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (XXXIII): Americans Like Us

Roger Senserrich

In today’s email:

DACA Repeal: Americans Like Us

Ellen Shemitz, Executive Director, Connecticut Voices for Children.

This week’s announcement by the Trump administration of a March 5, 2018 date to begin phasing out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is devastating news not just for over 800,000 young people that have thrived under this measure, but for the country as a whole.

One of the fundamental principles of our country is that we define being American not by where we are from, who we worship, or what language we speak, but by who is willing to be part of the American idea, the American project. E Pluribus Unum, one out of many. We do not embrace diversity; diversity is who we are.

The 800,000 young people under DACA are Americans like us. The want to be Americans; they share our values, they are part of what defines us a country. The ‘dreamers’ and their families are our friends, neighbors and coworkers. They are a vital, integral part of our communities. Removing their status and threatening their deportation will weaken our country in ways beyond the disappearance of their direct contribution to their cities, towns, or the U.S. economy as a whole. This will weaken our country’s character; their removal threatens who we are.

We call Congress to protect this program, and we hope they take immediate action to do so.

Budget News: Some Advances

Budget negotiations continue behind closed doors this week as legislative leaders and the Governor try to reach an agreement. As of today, House leaders plan to hold a vote next week, even if there is no budget agreement in sight.

This week legislators expect to release additional budget proposals as the Governor, Republicans and Democrats close on a deal. The Governor gave some hints as to what he could find acceptable for a compromise deal, including additional revenue and changes to his proposal to pay for teachers’ pensions. He expects to introduce an updated budget proposal today. Republican leaders, meanwhile, have been involved in budget talks, but it is unclear if a bipartisan agreement is within reach. Republican leaders also expect to release an updated budget document today, taking into account the savings from the labor agreement voted last month.

All sides seem well aware that, without a budget agreement, cities and towns will face dramatic cuts to municipal grants in October, putting the solvency of many of them (including Hartford) in jeopardy. The budget crisis has been painful for many children and families that rely on key government programs, from daycare subsidies to essential social services by nonprofit providers. Come October, it would get much, much worse. Reaching a good agreement is now more urgent than ever.

Still Important: Call Your Legislators

As the budget negotiations move to a new, and hopefully final, phase, now is the time to reach out to your legislators. We must remind lawmakers of the devastating impact that any further delays would have for Connecticut’s children and families, and for the state’s economy as a whole.

Connecticut’s budget is the clearest statement of our policy priorities. As negotiations slowly move forward, we should keep reaching out to legislators to tell them that it is time for Connecticut to approve a budget that makes children and working families in the state its priority. We need a balanced budget approach that includes both a sound strategy for state spending and modernized new revenue so Connecticut can preserve crucial services and build a strong foundation for the future.

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.

New Report: The State of Working Connecticut

Children do well when families do well, and families do well in part when the economy provides jobs with fair wages and good benefits. Yet since the Great Recession, the share of well-paying jobs in Connecticut has shrunk, and the state’s lagging economic recovery has left many—including youth, black workers, and the less educated—behind. In many cases, disparities between the most disadvantaged workers and the rest have increased.

Next Monday, Connecticut Voices for Children will release an update to our “State of Working Connecticut Report” evaluating the state’s economy through three measures: the labor force, jobs, and wages. We conclude that Connecticut cannot afford to leave so many workers behind, underscoring the need for policy changes that will improve wages, make education more equitable, and support truly inclusive economic growth.

Some key figures:

  • Over the last five years, the share of low-wage jobs increased by 9.2 percent. In contrast, the share of mid-wage jobs decreased and the share of high-wage jobs increased slightly.
  • People of color have become increasingly overrepresented in low-wage work and underrepresented in high-wage work over the last five years.
  • Wage disparities by race have widened: the median white worker now makes $10.08 and $8.98 per hour more than their black and Latino counterparts, respectively.
  • The wealthiest 10 percent experienced the greatest raise in the last year while the median worker’s wage remained essentially flat.

Check our website Monday morning to download the full report.

Federal Update: Debt Ceiling, Continuing Resolution, and Disaster Relief

Congress is facing a very busy month of September, with key votes on issues ranging from budget resolutions to children’s health insurance programs. Two of the votes are especially important: a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown, and raising the debt ceiling, to avoid a potentially catastrophic debt default.

It looks like Congress will at least take care of these two crucial votes. President Trump and legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle reached an agreement yesterday that will extend both government funding and borrowing authority until December. The package will also include disaster relief funds for hurricane Harvey.

This agreement, however, is only a first step. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) must be reauthorized before the end of the month, as we explained last week in a policy brief. The Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program is also up for a vote. Congressional republicans still plan to vote on a budget resolution and tax reform, and might still try to make a push for an Affordable Care Act repeal. We will keep you posted.

What We Are Reading

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare
September 1, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (XXXII): A Shortsighted Budget

Roger Senserrich

In today’s email:

Budget News: House Democrats Budget Proposal

Last week, House Democrats introduced a new budget proposal. The document has some significant differences from the Governor’s proposal, with some much needed new revenue and significant changes to municipal aid and social service spending.

In a new policy brief, we analyze the House Democrats proposal in detail. We focus on the proposed new revenue sources, changes to municipal grants, and proposed cuts to education, child welfare, juvenile justice, health care, and social services. Here is our initial take:

To solve the short-term budget crisis and lay the foundation for future prosperity, the legislature and the Governor must use all tools available, seeking both new revenue and expense-side savings.The House Democrats’ most recent budget proposal takes steps in that direction, acknowledging the need for new revenue to balance our budget gap (...).

Despite this important step, the budget still falls short in the severity of the cuts endorsed and the impact of the new revenue approach chosen.(...).

Our state needs a balanced budget approach that raises necessary revenue and targets resources where they are most effective: a budget that includes both shared sacrifice and shared opportunity, addresses the structural causes of our persistent deficits and municipal funding imbalances, and prioritizes equitable growth. None of the budgets put forth to date meet this challenge.

Coming Up: House Convenes, September 14

The House Democrats budget proposal is still a work in progress. Legislators are debating some areas, and House leaders are in negotiations with Senate democrats and the Governor to get a bill that has the votes to pass. Members of both parties are currently involved in the talks, although it is likely that the proposal will be approved only with Democratic votes.

As of today, the House has scheduled a session on September 14, although it is unclear if they will vote on a budget. If they vote and the proposal passes, the Senate would likely vote the following week. Senate Democrats will need the tie-breaking vote of the Lieutenant Governor for the budget to pass on a party line vote.The bill would then be sent to the Governor for his signature. He could sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature. Recently, he has expressed disagreements with some of the provisions - although he hasn't threatened to veto this particular version.

Still Important: Call Your Legislators

As the budget negotiations move to a new, and hopefully final, phase, it is now more important than ever to reach out to your legislators. A budget is about making hard choices; lawmakers will be making many of these hard choices in the coming two weeks.

Connecticut’s budget is the clearest statement of our policy priorities. As negotiations slowly move forward, we should keep reaching out to legislators to tell them that it is time for Connecticut to approve a budget that makes children and working families in the state its priority. We need a balanced budget approach that includes both a sound strategy for state spending and modernized new revenue so Connecticut can preserve crucial services and build a strong foundation for the future.

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.

Federal Update: Children’s Health Insurance at Risk

Since 1997, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has worked with Medicaid to ensure that children from low and moderate-income families have health insurance. In 2016, this bipartisan program covered 8.4 million children in the United States and over 17,000 children in CT.

This program is now at risk. Unless Congress reauthorizes its funding before the end of September, these children will become uninsured.

In our new policy brief we provide an overview of the  CHIP program, why it matters to families and the state budget, and what Congress must do to keep it funded. You can download the report here.

Events: Book Presentation

Richard Rothstein will be discussing and signing his new book, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, in New Haven and Hartford on September 12.

  • September 12, at Noon, Trinity College, Hartford, CT, Mather Hall, Terrace A-B-C rooms, 300 Summit Street, Hartford. Free to attend, but RSVP Here.
  • September 12, at 4:30 p.m., New Haven. The Connecticut Open Communities Alliance hosts a reception at The Mory's Association, 306 York Street New Haven, CT 06511. (Tickets, $100 per person) RSVP Here.
  • September 12, at 6:00 p.m. Yale Law School, Sterling Law Building, New Haven.  RSVP Here.

In this book, Richard Rothstein explodes the myth that America's cities came to be racially divided as the result of individual prejudices, personal choices to live in same-race neighborhoods, income differences, or the actions of private institutions like banks and real estate agencies. Rather, The Color of Law uncovers a forgotten history of how racially explicit policies of federal, state, and local governments created the patterns of residential segregation that persist to this day. The Color of Law concludes that because residential segregation was created by government action in violation of the constitution, we are obligated to remedy it.

What We Are Reading

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Health
August 23, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (XXXI): Municipal Aid Woes

Roger Senserrich

In today’s email:

Budget News: Municipal Grant Plans

In the absence of a budget, the Governor has the responsibility to issue executive orders detailing the distribution of state funding. Last week, the Governor issued an executive order addressing municipal aid.

In a normal year, state government distributes some of its first payments for municipal grants in September and October, based on the appropriated amounts for three major funding sources: the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula, the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) grant, and the Municipal Revenue Sharing Account (MRSA).

This year, the Governor indicated that he sought to protect the Alliance school districts (that is, the 30 lowest performing and for the most part less affluent school districts) from reductions in state funding. The full picture is, however, far more complicated. Although the allocation of some of the funds has prioritized holding low-income communities and their residents harmless, overall the combined impact of changes in the municipal allocations means steep reductions in funding to some of the state’s poorest communities.  

Education Cost Sharing

For ECS payments, Governor Malloy has decided to keep ECS funding levels for the 30 alliance districts unchanged, cutting funding for the rest. The wealthiest districts have seen their state education payments zeroed out; other districts will see considerable cuts. The CT Mirror has a map detailing the town-by-town impact here. The total funding reduction, compared to fiscal year 2017 (FY17), is $139 million in October, when municipalities receive a quarter of their ECS funding. What is not clear from this chart of town-level cuts is the gap between funding and need - a gap that cannot be calculated without a clear funding formula detailing the cost of an adequate education and providing a cost sharing formula.  

Although the changes to ECS funding do protect low-income communities from cuts, how funding would be distributed highlights the need of developing a funding formula that truly accounts for education costs and needs. The current budget crisis makes even more urgent the  General Assembly’s responsibility to adopt an effective ECS formula that provides equitable funding to all school districts, based on comprehensive adequacy study that considers need, local fiscal capacity and a detailed cost analysis.

PILOT and Municipal Revenue Sharing Account

The Governor’s plan dramatically reduces PILOT and MRSA funding. Unlike the ECS funding changes, these cuts will reduce funding for all municipalities, with poorer cities and towns suffering the brunt of the cuts.

Through PILOT, Connecticut partially compensates municipalities for a state law that removes state, university, and hospital property from local tax rolls. Most tax-exempt property is concentrated in low-income urban areas; as a result, the elimination of PILOT funding will hit the state’s most vulnerable communities the hardest. Again, the cities with the least resources will have to bear most of the burden of supporting key state infrastructure. The PILOT cuts total $182 million; 80 percent of that funding would have gone to Alliance districts.

The MRSA is a state grant that shares a portion of sales tax revenues with municipalities and compensates them for state-mandated revenue losses. The Governor’s proposal eliminates the MRSA’s October sales tax transfer ($128 million) and additional PILOT funding ($44 million) but partially preserves its compensation for capping local mill rates for motor vehicles.

The full list of cuts is available here, and it is clear that even with the ECS limiting harm to the poorest towns, the combined effect of PILOT and MRSA cuts will prove devastating to many cities, putting considerable pressure on municipal budgets. The PILOT will be especially damaging to cities like Hartford or New Haven that have a high percentage of tax-exempt property. Hartford will lose $69 million in funding (including the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Fund Grant, also zeroed out); New Haven, $68 million; Bridgeport, $32 million; and Waterbury, close to $30 million. Unless the General Assembly addresses the budget delays soon, cities and towns will soon be forced to raise taxes or enact painful cuts.

The Need for Reform

The impact of these proposed cuts and the inconsistent ECS funding provide a stark reminder of the need for property tax reform. Connecticut’s municipalities are heavily dependent on their property wealth to pay for local services. Economic and racial segregation, as well as the concentration of many of our state’s key institutions (universities, state government, hospitals) in urban areas, create huge disparities in fiscal capacity between towns, only partially compensated by a hodgepodge of state grants and funding formulas that fail to address the root causes of these disparities.

We proposed, earlier this year, a property tax reform that would provide adequate, equitable funding for education for all children in the state, as well as promote economic growth in urban areas. Lawmakers should consider long-term, structural changes to the property tax system as a first step to address the state’s economic woes.

Coming Up: More Budget Proposals

The budget negotiations appear to be moving forward, albeit slowly. House Democrats will present a new budget proposal this week, with the intention of holding a vote between September 11 and 14. If passed, the Senate would vote the following week. If the General Assembly does not approve a budget by August 22, it will make it the longest budget debate in state history.

We do not have much information on what is included in the new budget proposal other than changes to the sales tax. A consensus seems to be emerging, however, between House and Senate Democrats on the need to raise new revenue to balance the budget, instead of just relying on cuts. Expect a detailed analysis once the proposal is made public in the coming days.

Still Important: Call Your Legislators

These impending cuts should give us a new sense of urgency. If no budget is approved before the end of September, Connecticut’s cities and towns will face an unprecedented fiscal cliff. State services have endured cuts, furlough days, and layoffs since June. Come October, school districts, cities and towns would be forced to do the same. The impact for children and families across the state would be devastating.

As negotiations slowly move forward, we should keep reaching out to legislators to tell them that it is time for Connecticut to approve a budget that makes children and working families in the state its priority. We need a balanced budget approach that includes both a sound strategy for state spending and new revenue so Connecticut can preserve crucial services and build a strong foundation for the future.

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.

What We Are Reading / Listening To

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Education
August 16, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (XXX): A Nation Built on an Idea

Ellen Shemitz, J.D. and Roger Senserrich

In today’s email:

A Nation Built on an Idea

Ellen Shemitz, Executive Director, Connecticut Voices for Children

The United States of America is a nation built on a single, powerful idea: all people are created equal. That idea drives much of our work here at Connecticut Voices for Children. We fight every day to bring down barriers to opportunity and to advance policies that will ensure that every child in our state has a meaningful chance to achieve her or his full potential.

Over the years, our work has come to focus increasingly on issues of race and racism: the institutional barriers that children and families of color face on a daily basis in our state. This work often creates discomfort and at times denial. But, if the events this weekend in Charlottesville teach us anything, they must teach us the importance of recognizing and taking action against the forces of bigotry, intolerance, and racism in every form.

Today in Connecticut, many racist policies and laws remain on the books. Did you know that two-thirds of people of color in Connecticut are concentrated in 8 percent of towns in the state? This did not happen by accident. Local control, a much valued system in New England, has allowed the perpetuation of racist zoning policies. State and local laws and policies shape access to schools, health care, and opportunity across Connecticut. Criminal justice practices discriminate against minorities. Economic disparities and job opportunities leave people of color behind.

The risk today is greater than at any time in my lifetime. Just this afternoon we received notice that the Trump Administration has targeted a key civil rights provision, suspending a housing rule that would have allowed more low income families to find housing in higher opportunity neighborhoods. It is not just white nationalists carrying tiki torches who undermine our core values: it is often the more subtle and less discernible actions that cause the most harm over time.  

It is time to end all this. Together, we can build a Connecticut that is welcoming, diverse, and inclusive. Equitable growth and opportunity should be the cornerstones of our work. It is the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do - and each of us can play a role in making it happen.

 

Budget Update: Nothing New

No real budget news these past few days, and no news expected this week either, as legislative leaders have not scheduled any meetings. State finances are still managed by executive order, with across the board cuts on services now and deeper cuts to municipal aid and education this fall. No budget deal is now expected until at least mid-September.

The CT Mirror has an excellent article Monday that provides an overview of municipal finances, with a detailed calendar of when local governments will lose funding from each grant, and how big the cuts will be. The first major cut will be PILOT funding (Payment In Lieu of Taxes, the funds that municipalities receive to compensate them from tax exempt properties), which goes out next month.Things get worse from there.

These impending cuts should give us a new sense of urgency. Negotiations might be on a lull, but we should keep reaching out to legislators to tell them that it is time for Connecticut to approve a budget that makes children and working families in the state its priority. We need a balanced budget approach that includes both a sound strategy for state spending and new revenue so Connecticut can preserve crucial services and build a strong foundation for the future.

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.

 

Federal Preview: a Busy Fall

Congress is in recess during August. Once they are back in Washington next month, however, they are going to have a lot of issues on their plate, almost all of them having a direct impact on children and families. We will talk about them in more detail as they come up next month, but it is important to have a good sense on how busy the agenda is going to be. Considering how little legislative bandwidth Congress has shown so far this year, it is going to be a challenge.

Congress will have four main issues to address this fall. First, the budget resolution for fiscal year 2018. A first version, including dramatic cuts to programs for low-income children and families was passed by the House Budget Committee. It contains reconciliation instructions for tax reform legislation (more on that in a bit). It is unclear if House and Senate leaders have the votes to pass a budget right now, meaning that they might need to pass continuing resolutions to avoid a government shutdown by September 30th. One of the many important programs pending to be voted on is CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program which helps pay most of the costs for children’s health care in the HUSKY B program.  

In addition, Congress must raise the debt ceiling before September 29th, or risk a default and an unpredictable financial crisis. Debt ceiling increases are usually “clean”, without strings attached, but we have seen fierce debates in the recent past.

Tax reform is next on the list. There is no word yet on what this is going to include, other than tax cuts for high-income earners paid by cuts to social programs. Leadership wants to include reconciliation instructions in the budget resolution enabling the Senate to pass the tax cuts with 50 votes instead of the usual 60.

Finally, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal effort might have failed, but Congress could try again later this year, and the administration has threatened to undermine the law even without Congress’s help.There has been talk of a possible bipartisan plan to stabilize the ACA markets, including Connecticut’s Access Health CT, but it is too early to tell whether or what this will mean for those who purchase coverage through the exchanges.

 

What We Are Reading / Listening To

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Health