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Voices Speaking

February 28, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (VIII): education funding and vehicle bills

Roger Senserrich

The Appropriations Committee budget hearings are over, but the work in the legislature continues. Individual committees are still looking at the budget implementers and holding hearings. Meanwhile, the Finance Committee has started to discuss the revenue side of the budget.

Not everything in the legislature has to do with the budget, however. This week we will look at bills in front of the Education, Human Service and Children Committees, give a quick explanation of vehicle bills and review the main points of our Children's Budget.

This Week: Committee Hearings

Four committees are holding hearings on bills we are tracking this week: Children, Education, Human Services, and Finance.

The Finance Committee hearing was just posted today, so we are still going over the individual bills and what they do. The hearing will take place Friday, March 3, at 1:00 PM in room 2E. We will send a follow up with more details tomorrow, but it is important to testify on Finance because revenue bills originate in that committee.

Committee on Children

Tuesday, February 28 - Room 2A, 10:00 AM

H.B. 7111 -  An act concerning the restraint, seclusion and placing in time out of students by school employees

This bill clarifies the difference between time-out and seclusion and prohibits the use of seclusion as part of Individualized Education Programs (IEP, for special education students).

Why is it important? Both are positive changes that will restrict exclusionary discipline practices in schools.

How to testify:

Sign-up for the hearing will begin at 9:00 AM in Room 2A of the LOB and will be first come, first serve.  Bring 30 copies of your testimony. For written testimony, email  KIDtestimony@cga.ct.gov.

Education Committee

Wednesday, March 1 - Room 1E, 10:30 AM

S.B.2 An act concerning the development of a more equitable cost-sharing formula

This is a vehicle bill (see below for more about what that means) to introduce changes to the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) Formula. The bill in its current form does not include any details on possible reforms.

Why is it important? The Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula provides state funds to localities to help ensure that schools have sufficient funds to provide an adequate education for all students. The ECS formula has not been followed nor fully funded since 2013.  

Changes in the ECS formula should be based on research identifying how much money is needed to adequately educate all children in Connecticut. Therefore, we need a costing out or adequacy study that will tell us how much a quality education will cost. Also, the ECS formula should be based on the principle that some students require additional funds to achieve an adequate education. An improved ECS formula would allocate additional funds to students in poverty, English language learners, and special education students. If we are making dramatic changes in the ECS formula, we need to identify the true cost of an adequate education, gather appropriate data, and hear from school boards, superintendents, parents, and national education funding experts.

The Governor's budget proposal also includes changes to the ECS formula. We describe them in our Children´s Budget report.

H.B. 7035 An act implementing the Governor's budget recommendations concerning education

This bill translates the Governor's budget proposal regarding education into law. You can read about the specifics in our Children's Budget report.

Why is it important? As we mention in the Children's Budget analysis, the Governor's proposal includes several key changes to the ECS formula that reduces the amount of funds allocated based on student economic need, eliminates the special education excess cost grant, and adopts an imprecise measure of poverty.

While this bill proposes increasing the amount of money dedicated specifically toward special education, the elimination of the Special Education Excess Cost Grant means that students with particularly high needs might not get essential services and small districts might suffer.

H.B. 7035 also proposes using HUSKY A as a measure of poverty in the ECS formula. This not an accurate estimate of the number of students in poverty. Among children below 200% FPL in Connecticut, 76% are on public health insurance, 19% are only on private insurance, and 5% of children have no health insurance. Therefore, 24% of students in poverty would not be counted by using HUSKY A as a proxy for poverty. Read our notes on K-12 education funding in our Children's Budget report for more details.

S.B. 711 Minimum budget requirements for education for districts with enrollment declines

A Connecticut law known as the Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR) currently mandates that towns spend no less on education than they did the previous year within a set cap based on the percentage of students living in poverty. This bill would let most districts cut education spending even more if enrollment declines.

Why is it important? Given the importance of adequate school funding for a quality education for all students, we are concerned that these changes might lead to lower levels of funding and quality. Please note that the Governor's proposal also relaxes the MBR, but using a different criterion.

S.B. 912 Revisions to the staff qualifications requirement for early childhood educators

Currently, 2020 is the deadline for every early childhood educator in a center receiving state funding to obtain a bachelor's degree in an early childhood-related field. The only approved institutions are in Connecticut. Many centers will not meet the staffing requirements in time. This bill would allow staff to qualify with a bachelor's degree in any major from an approved school if they earn at least twelve credits related to early childhood or childhood development.

Why is it important? The bill would expand the number of people that are considered qualified to be early childhood educators. Although this would help alleviate the state's shortage of early childhood teachers, it also dilutes present efforts to professionalize the early childhood workforce.

Voices supports the Early Childhood Alliance proposal to allow staff to qualify as early childhood educators through a bachelor's degree in early childhood education from any regionally accredited institution, whether in or outside Connecticut, which may help attract qualified teachers from outside the state.

All bills - how to testify:

Speakers will be determined by a lottery system; lottery numbers will be drawn from 8:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M. in the First Floor Atrium of the LOB.  Speakers arriving after the completion of the lottery should report to Room 3100 of the LOB and will have their names placed at the end of the speaker list.  Bring 55 copies of written testimony if you are not able to email your testimony in advance.

Written testimony must be submitted no later than 9:30 A.M. on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 to the committee staff via email at EDtestimony@cga.ct.gov in Word or PDF format no later than 5:30 P.M. on Tuesday, February 28. 

Human Services Committee

Thursday, March 2 - Room 2C, 12:00 PM

H.B. 7040 An act implementing the Governor´s budget recommendations for human services programs.

This bill translates the Governor's budget proposal regarding human services into legislative language. Our Children´s Budget analysis has the full details.

Why is it important? The Governor's proposed budget cuts several key programs, including HUSKY eligibility for parents and Medicaid dental coverage. We oppose many of these cuts, and encourage those affected to testify against them.

How to testify:

Sign-up for the hearing will be from 10:00 A.M. to 11:00 A.M. in the Second Floor Atrium of the LOB.  Please email written testimony in Word or PDF format to HStestimony@cga.ct.gov.

Legislative Arcana: Vehicle Bills

 

It is not rare during the session to run into "vehicle bills" like S.B. 2. Here is the full text of the bill as of today:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

That section 10-262h of the general statutes be amended to develop a new formula for equalization aid grants that distributes funds more equitably among towns.

That is, the bill really is not saying much at all. This is what legislators call "vehicle bills," basically empty legislative shells with little or no language that might be used at a later date to introduce legislation via an amendment.

This is done for two reasons. First, all bills must originate in a committee. Legislators might want to introduce legislation after the committee's deadlines for a new bill, so sometimes vehicle bills are used to do this.

Second, in some cases legislators simply do not know yet what they want to include in a bill. The contents might depend on negotiations with the Governor, discussions with leadership on specifics, the product of merging several bills in one, or what is included in the budget. A vehicle bill allows lawmakers to continue working on its language without as many time constraints, leaving debate for the House or Senate floor.

This might make sense from a lawmaking perspective, but often translates in complicated, extensive legislative proposals that never receive a public hearing. Vehicle bills make the legislative process more opaque, restricting input from the general public. We understand that they have a role, but they make our job as advocates harder. 

Spotlight: Children's Budget
Analysis of the Governor's Budget Proposal

The state budget is a reflection of Connecticut's priorities. For decades, our state has built communities with high quality of life and a world-class education system, and has promoted opportunity for all children and families.

In our new analysis of the Governor's budget proposal, we find that Connecticut is departing from these long-standing commitments. The Children's Budget, the share of the state budget devoted to children, is down to a new low.  The Governor's biennial budget proposal would reduce the Children's Budget from 29.5 percent of General Fund spending in the current fiscal year to 29 percent in FY 2018 and 28.6 percent in FY 2019.

You can download the full report, with a detailed analysis on the cuts, new revenue, and budget structural challenges, here.

News and Updates: Minimum Wage

Two bills increasing the minimum wage were up for a vote last week in the Labor Committee: one from the Senate, one from the House.

The Senate bill failed after one of the chairs asked to split the committee for the vote (we explained what that means here); the House bill was approved in a 7-6 vote. CT News Junkie has more details

Upcoming Events

Demystifying the State Budget and Fighting for Children

Derek Thomas and Ray Noonan will present at Hadlyme Public Hall on Saturday, March 4th to talk about the Connecticut state budget and our recent reports on property tax reform, revenue options, and the Children's Budget. This talk is part of the Activism Teach-In conference hosted by Together We Rise Connecticut.

Click here to register.

 

What we are reading

 

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Early Care, Education, Family Economic Security, Health
February 21, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (VII): Funding education, minimum wage & more

Roger Senserrich

Voices from the CapitolThe session is now in full swing. This week, the Appropriations Committee wraps up their budget hearings, with several key sections of the budget under discussion. Other Committees will discuss how the state can better take care of youth aging out of foster care, review a proposal to distribute the earned income tax credit (EITC) on a monthly basis, and vote on legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

This Week: Committee Hearings

Appropriations Committee Hearings

Tuesday, February 21: Education

Why is it important? The Governor's budget proposal includes several key changes to education funding in Connecticut. Sixty percent of K-12 education spending come from local sources, but how the state distributes the remaining share of education funds is very important, especially for poor districts. The Governor's proposal makes significant changes to the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula and special education, with significant impacts for many Connecticut students.

Our position: The state has tweaked its funding formulas over the years. The current system is fairly incoherent and does not effectively address the needs of children in many low-income districts, while perpetuating educational and fiscal disparities. The Governor's proposal introduces some changes, but does not address the structural imbalances in the current system. The legislature should consider a comprehensive reform that addresses these structural problems.

Where can I find more information? Our Children's Budget analysis, to be released later this week, will contain a detailed explanation on the proposed changes.

Wednesday , February 22: Judicial (with Corrections and Transportation)

Room 2C, 6:30 PM

Why is it important? With the state looking to keep kids out of the juvenile justice system, and, if they get there, out of detention, funding for diversionary programs becomes more important. The Governor's budget maintains large cuts from last year and does not account for this need.

Our position: Diversionary programs for juveniles should receive additional funding, reversing recent cuts, to maintain Connecticut's role as a leader in juvenile justice reform and keep kids out of jail.

Thursday, February 23: Health

Room 2C, 4:30 PM

Why is it important? The Governor's budget proposal includes changes in HUSKY and dental insurance eligibility rules, as well as cuts in crucial health programs like school-based health centers.

Our position: Further weakening the safety net would place many vulnerable children and families at risk of losing access to health care.

Where can I find more information? You can find more information on the effects of benefit cuts here, and on the Children's Budget report later this week.

How to testify in Appropriations:

1. Sign up in advance: public speaker order for the hearings is determined by a lottery system.  Lottery numbers are drawn the day of the hearing from 9:00 A.M. until 10:00 A.M. in the LOB First Floor Atrium and from 10:15 A.M. until 1:00 P.M. in Room 2700 of the LOB.  Speakers arriving after the completion of the lottery will have their names placed at the end of the speaker list, so be there on time!  The list of speakers registered through the lottery system will be posted outside the designated hearing room at least one hour prior to the start of the public hearing.

2. Expect a long day: Some of the Appropriations Committee hearings might require a long wait.

3. Prepare your testimony: Remember to bring 30 copies of written testimony at the time of sign-up, but not later than 2:00 P.M. Send a copy via email in Word or PDF format to APPtestimony@cga.ct.gov.

4. You can also just submit written testimonybut being there tends to be more effective.

 

Children's Committee Hearing

S.B.813 - An act concerning youth aging out of Department of Children and Families custody

This bill requires the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to ensure that youths aging out of foster care do not become homeless.

Why it is important? By age 21, 29% of Connecticut youth that have been in foster care were either currently homeless or had been homeless in the last two years. Download our fact sheet here for more data and information regarding this bill. You can find our report about aging our of foster care here.

Hearing details: Public hearing on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 at 10:00 A.M. in Room 2B of the LOB.  Sign-up for the hearing will begin at 9:00 A.M. in Room 2B of the LOB and will be first come, first serve.  Bring 30 copies of written testimony to Committee staff at 9:00 A.M. in Room 2B of the LOB.  Individuals not wishing to testify in person may email written testimony in Word or PDF format to KIDtestimony@cga.ct.gov.

Finance Committee Hearing

H.B.5237 - An act requiring a study of the Earned Income Tax Credit

A study bill to assess and make recommendations on spreading Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) payments monthly over the whole year and allow recipients to maintain eligibility after small increases of pay.

Why it is important? There is considerable evidence that spreading EITC payments over the year makes it more effective. You can read our testimony for a similar bill last year; here is a Brookings' study on this issue.

Hearing details: Public hearing on Friday, February 24, 2017 at 11:00 A.M. in Room 2E of the LOB.  A lottery system will determine public speaker order.  Lottery numbers will be drawn from 9:00 A.M. to 10:00 A.M. in the First Floor Atrium of the LOB.  Please submit 35 copies of written testimony. Please email written testimony in Word or PDF format to FINtestimony@cga.ct.gov

Labor and Public Employees Committee

Last week we testified in front of the Labor and Public Employees Committee in support of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, noting that it would benefit more than 110,000 children in the state (see our full testimony here). The Committee will vote tomorrow (Tuesday in Room 2E at 12 P.M.) on S.B.13 and H.B. 6208, the two bills relating to the increase. If one of your legislators sits on this committee call and ask them to support these bills.

Check the membership list here, and click here to find your legislators and their contact information.

Spotlight: Revenue Options for Connecticut

We've updated our Revenue Options brief with new data, which shows that 95% of our proposal calling for a half-percentage point increase in the top income tax rates would fall on the top 1% of taxpayers.

The new brief also provides rough estimates of revenue that could be generated from each of the services included in our proposal to broaden the base and lower the rate of the state sales tax (see appendix).


 

Upcoming Events


Demystifying the State Budget and Fighting for Children
 

Derek Thomas and Ray Noonan will present at Hadlyme Public Hall
on Saturday March 4th to talk about the Connecticut state budget
and our recent reports on property tax reform, revenue options, and
the Children's Budget. This talk is part of the Activism Teach-In
conference hosted by Together We Rise Connecticut.

Click here to register.


 

What we are reading

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Education, Family Economic Security, Health
February 14, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (VI): budget, minimum wage and Appropriations

Roger Senserrich

Last week the Governor introduced his budget proposal. This week we have the first of a long series of Appropriations Committee hearings where we can make our voices heard about its contents.

Spotlight: the budget

The Governor´s budget proposal has been released.

We will be releasing our budget analysis later this week. For now, you can find all the budget documents online, as usual. The most relevant pieces are in the biennial budget itself; the agency budgets, municipal aid breakdown (this year with some very significant changes), and the financial summary. A good overview is available in this presentation from OPM; town-by-town budget data can be found here.

Some preliminary notes:

How does the Governor close the budget deficit?

A mix of budget cuts, new revenue and shifting some of the state pension obligations to municipalities. To be more precise:

  • $256.2 million in budget cuts.
  • $700 million in collective bargaining savings (state workers'concessions)
  • $400 million from municipal contributions to the teacher retirement fund. 
  • $320.8 million in new revenue.

New sources of revenue:

Low to middle-income taxpayers shoulder 40 percent of the Governor's revenue proposals. $105 million come from the elimination of the property tax credit, $25 million from a cut on the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). 

Budget cuts:

Our full analysis on program cuts will come later this week, but here are some highlights:

  • The budget reduces eligibility for HUSKY A parents to 138% of poverty. About 9,500 parents will lose Medicaid.
  • Care4Kids remains closed to new applications for most groups, letting enrollment slowly decline.
  • The proposal eliminates the 2-Generation/TANF program.

Appropriations Committee hearings

With a budget proposal on the table, now it is the Legislature's turn. The Appropriations Committee has the task to decide how money is allocated and spent in the state budget. Their first step is to look at each section of the Governor's proposal, holding hearings to obtain input from the affected agencies and the public.  If you are able to testify, here are a few tips:

Appropriation hearings this week:

  • Wednesday, February 15: Higher Education
    Room 2C, 5:00 PM
  • Thursday, February 16: Human Services
    This key hearing covers the Department of Social Services and the Department of Children and Families.
    Room 2C, 4:30 PM
  • Friday, February 17: Housing (with Agriculture & Energy)
    Room 2C, 4:30 PM

Appropriation hearings next week:

  • Tuesday, February 21 - Elementary & Secondary Education, Room 2C, 4:00 PM
  • Wednesday, February 22 -  Transportation, Judicial, and Corrections, Room 2C, 6:30 PM.
  • Thursday, February 23 - Health, Room 2C, 4:30 PM

How to testify:

1. Sign up in advance: public speaker order for the hearings is determined by a lottery system.  Lottery numbers are drawn the day of the hearing from 9:00 A.M. until 10:00 A.M. in the LOB First Floor Atrium and from 10:15 A.M. until 1:00 P.M. in Room 2700 of the LOB.  Speakers arriving after the completion of the lottery will have their names placed at the end of the speaker list, so be there on time!  The list of speakers registered through the lottery system will be posted outside the designated hearing room at least one hour prior to the start of the public hearing.

2. Expect a long day: Some of the Appropriations Committee hearings might require a long wait. Just bear in mind that legislators are there as well, listening to testimony for hours. When it is your turn, make sure to be polite, considerate and keep your testimony engaging.

3. Prepare your testimony: you can find links to the budget documents above. Remember to bring 30 copies of written testimony at the time of sign-up, but not later than 2:00 P.M. Send a copy via email  in Word or PDF format to APPtestimony@cga.ct.gov.

4. You can also just submit written testimony, but being there tends to be more effective.

This week: Bills we are tracking

Supporting

Labor Committee hearing - upcoming bills

This bill raises the minimum wage to $15/hour  over the next several years. 

Why it is important - According to data from the Economic Policy Institute, 13.8 percent (110,424) of all children would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage. In total, 336,000 workers (20 percent of the work force) would directly benefit from an increase in the state minimum wage to $15 by 2022. Nearly 60 percent of those workers are women, 90 percent are 20 years of age and older, 63 percent work in education and healthcare, retail, and leisure and hospitality, and 36 percent have some college education The increase would disproportionately help workers of color: Of all black workers, 31.8 percent would benefit, and of all Hispanic workers, 37.5 percent would also benefit. See our testimony from last year.

Hearing details - when and how to testify: see below.

The bill creates a paid family leave system for Connecticut.

Why it is important - According to the  National Compensation Survey for private industry workers, only 12% of employees have access to paid family leave specifically to care for a family member, including maternity and paternity leave. People of color are less likely to have access to paid leave. See our 2015 testimony for more information.

Hearing details - When & How: Thursday February 16, 2:00 PM, Labor Committee, Room 2E. Sign-up for the hearing will be from 11:00 A.M. to 12:30 P.M. in the First Floor Atrium of the LOB.  Bring 10 copies of the written testimony. Email written testimony in Word or PDF format to LABtestimony@cga.ct.gov no later than 5:00 P.M. on Wednesday.

Public Health Committee hearing - upcoming bills

H.B. 6021 will allow homeless, unaccompanied minors to get access to health care without needing parental consent, expanding access to health services. S.B. 35 requires the state to evaluate the public health impact of sweetened beverages on obesity. We included a tax on sweetened beverages on our revenue options proposal that might be worth mentioning at the hearing. 

Hearing details  - Friday February 17, 10:30 AM, Public Health Committee, Room 1D. Sign-up for the public hearing will begin at 9:00 A.M. in the First Floor Atrium of the LOB. Bring 10 paper copies. Written testimony can be submitted to  phtestimony@cga.ct.gov.

 Tracking

A bill raising the age to be tried as an adult in court to 21, introduced by the Governor. No hearing date yet; we will keep you posted. 

Upcoming Events

Webinar: tomorrow, 10 AM to 10:30 AM.
Equal Funding for Equal Effort: Property Tax Reform in Connecticut
 
 
Ray Noonan, author of our recent property tax reform proposal, will explain the issues and problems that plague our current property tax system and explain a possible solution: an adjusted statewide property tax system based on Vermont's model.
 
The webinar will be streamed live on YouTube. Please RSVP here in advance so you can submit questions and receive all the slides and materials. 
 
 
Budget talks - Hadlyme Public Hall, March 4th
We'll be talking about the state budget at Hadlyme Public Hall on Saturday March 4th. Stay tuned for details. 
 

What we are reading

Issue Area:
Budget and Tax
February 6, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (V): keeping the Office of Early Childhood whole

Roger Senserrich

 

This week the legislature really kicks into high gear. The most visible event will be the Governor´s budget, to be released with a big speech with great fanfare on Wednesday. There will be, however, a lot of committee hearings during the rest the week, many of them with proposed bills that need your input. 

All in all, pay attention to the budget, but make sure to read what else is coming up below. 

This week: the Governor's Budget

The Governor's Budget speech will be the at the center of the legislative agenda for weeks to come. For those who want to listen in, it will take place Wednesday, February 8, at 12 PM. You will be able to stream it live at CT-N.

After the speech, if you want more details, you have two options. On Thursday, Ben Barnes, Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, will present to the Appropriations and the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committees on the proposed budget. Soon afterward (hopefully by Monday), we will release our updated report on the Children's Budget. Make sure to follow us on Facebook for the latest analysis.

This week: bills we are tracking, hearings

Really busy week, with many bills coming up for a hearing. Here is the list of committees and legislation we will be paying special attention to, as well as pointers on how to testify.


Tuesday: Children's Committee

Room 1B, 10:00 AM

How to testify:  Sign-up for the hearing will begin at 9:00 A.M. in Room 1B of the LOB. Bring 30 copies of written testimony. You can also submit written testimony by e-mail to KIDtestimony@cga.ct.gov.


Also on Tuesday: Human Services Committee

Room 2B, 2:00 PM

How to testify: sign-up for hearing will begin at 11:00 AM at the first floor atrium at the LOB. You can e-mail your written testimony to HStestimony@cga.ct.gov, Subject: "Miscellaneous Human Services Bills".


Also on Tuesday: Insurance Committee

Room 2D, 12:00 PM

How to testify: sign-up for hearing will begin at 10 A.M. in room 2800 at the LOB. Submit 30 copies of any written testimony. You can e-mail your written testimony to INtestimony@cga.ct.gov, 

Starting Thursday - Appropriations Committee hearings

From Thursday 16 to Friday 24, LOB

The Appropriations Committee will conduct a series of hearings on the budget, with each subcommittee covering a specific area of the budget. If you have a program that is facing cuts, it is important to testify. Here are the most relevant dates:

  • Human Services: February 16, 4:30 PM
  • Elementary & Secondary Education: February 21, 4 PM
  • Judicial and Corrections: February 22, 6:30 PM
  • Health: February 23, 4:30 PM

You can find the full list, as well as specific instructions on how to testify in front of each committee, on the CGA Bulletin. If you have specific questions on the budget (how much something was cut or where was an item moved) or you need a hand figuring out how to testify and what to include on the testimony, don't hesitate to e-mail us.

On a side note: testifying in front of Appropriations is important, but you should strongly consider also testifying in front of the Finance Committee once it's their turn to look at the budget and consider revenues. Appropriations hear from service providers and people who rely in human services often - it is before Finance where our voices are rarely heard. We will make sure to remind you to testify there when the time comes.


Updates: bills we are tracking

Supporting

H.B. 6678 - An act establishing a state-wide education property tax system in lieu of the current property tax system.
A bill that seeks to introduce a state-wide property tax to fund education in Connecticut, based on the principle that equal effort in raising revenue for education should lead to equal funding and resources. We talked about this bill extensively last week; it has moved from the Planning Committee to Finance. We are expecting to get a hearing on it soon, so stay tuned.

Opposing

H.B. 7006 - An act restoring oversight of the Care 4 Kids program to the Department of Social Services and allowing for the transfer of federal block grant funds to the program. Hearing is tomorrow; read below why we don't support the bill on its current form.

Spotlight: Keeping Care 4 Kids at the Office of Early Childhood

H.B. 7006 seeks to transfer the Care 4 Kids program from the Office of Early Childhood (OEC) to the Department of Social Services (DSS).

The bill is a response to the cuts that Care 4 Kids has suffered in the past few months; the program is currently closed to new applicants. The idea is that by placing it under DSS the program will have access to more federal funding (potentially TANF money) and it will be easier to protect from further cuts, as the state can find other resources within this larger department.

We are skeptical that this bill will make Care 4 Kids stronger, however. 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 by creating an agency that could look at the system as a whole, blending and braiding funding streams to make more efficient use of existing resources. Moving Care 4 Kids back to DSS would weaken this structure, and the early care and education system as a whole.

Second, past experience of Care 4 Kids under DSS shows that the program would remain vulnerable. The program saw severe cuts between 2002 and 2005; when the program was previously closed, enrollment dropped by half. Access to TANF funding would likely prove elusive in a context of diminishing federal funding and competing priorities.

Webinar alert: property tax reform
 

Join us on February 15, from 10 AM to 11 AM for our upcoming webinar: Equal Funding for Equal Effort: Property Tax Reform in CT

Ray Noonan, author of our recent property tax reform proposal, will explain the issues and problems that plague our current property tax system and explain a possible solution: an adjusted statewide property tax system based on Vermont's model.

The webinar will be streamed live on YouTube. Please RSVP here in advance so you can submit questions and receive all the slides and materials.


Legislative arcana: how to testify at the Capitol

It is an imposing task - going in front of a legislative Committee to offer your take on a specific bill, explaining why you support or oppose it. It seems like a complicated, hard to navigate process, that involves long waits, obscure rules and public speaking.

It is actually much easier than it looks.

Testifying can involve long waits and public speaking, but it is actually a fairly straightforward yet highly effective way to advocate for programs and policies. Although each committee is slightly different, the process of testifying is largely the same for all of them, with minor differences.

It all starts with the legislative bulletin, the place where committees post the date, time and agenda of their hearings. On each hearing notice they will post the time, location, when and where to sign up (to get a spot in the order), and how many copies of the written testimony to bring in. As you have seen above, we will make a point of calling out when important hearings are coming in this newsletter, as well.

Once you are signed up, testimony is limited to three minutes. You will wait for your turn (it can be a long wait, some days), and then have three minutes to sit in front of the committee and make your case. Committee members might ask questions once you are done, an opportunity to expand your case. You can always refer to your written testimony on your presentation, giving an overview of the main points. You can read your testimon if it is short enough, although legislators tend to be more responsive to off-the-cuff testimony.

If you can't testify in person, all committees accept written testimony; the e-mail address for submissions is always included in the hearing announcement at the bulletin. Lawmakers often read testimony submitted this way, and they will use it on floor speeches and during committee meetings. If you have a compelling case, they will rely on it to protect your program.

A few pointers to make your testimony effective. First, stick to the subject matter: you are testifying for or against a bill, so avoid going over issues that are not on the day's agenda. Second, be brief, polite and considerate, even when opposing a bill. Legislators appreciate it. Third, remember we can help - if you have any questions on how to submit testimony or what to include,e-mail us. 


What we are reading

  • The CT Mirror has an excellent series of articles on the Connecticut state budget crisis - a great primer to understand upcoming Governor's budget. You can find them here: I, II, III, IV and V.
  • Arbitrary Austerity - our 2016 report on the long-term effects of budget cuts.
  • Reviewing tax expenditures - our 2016 report on lost state revenue from tax exemptions and loopholes. We are working on an updated version of this report, to be published soon.
Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Family Economic Security

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