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Voices Speaking

May 24, 2017

Some Cuts Never Heal : The President’s Budget Proposals Threaten the Well-Being of Connecticut’s Children

Sharon Langer, MEd, J.D.


President Trump’s budget proposal represents a major threat to Connecticut’s economic prosperity, inflicts severe cuts to the programs that serve the most vulnerable children and families in our state, and could dramatically worsen the state’s current fiscal crisis.

The proposal slashes nutrition, health care, and other important assistance that helps hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents meet basic living standards – food on the table, a roof over their heads, and access to health care – while giving new tax breaks to the wealthy and powerful and undermining the long term economic growth and prosperity of the state. The proposal would shift massive costs to Connecticut at a time when our state is already struggling to meet needs for education, transportation and other services. Currently, the state relies of federal funding for one-fifth of its budget.

“Slashing these programs would be both unwise and unfair,” said Ellen Shemitz, Executive Director of Connecticut Voices for Children. “Connecticut cannot afford to undermine its long-term wellbeing with program cuts that threaten the very foundations of healthy child development. We need to understand that some cuts never heal.”   

The President’s proposal includes the following cuts to key programs.

  • The budget would make deep cuts in Medicaid funding, jeopardizing health insurance and access to regular medical care for the more than 318,000 children insured through Medicaid in Connecticut—almost three out of eight children. Medicaid cuts would also endanger health coverage for the 121,000 elderly individuals in the state that rely on the program. The budget assumes these cuts would be in addition to the $880 billion in cuts from Medicaid in the bill the House recently passed to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
  • The President’s proposal would cut funding for the SNAP program (formerly food stamps) by a quarter, putting children at risk of going hungry and becoming sick. In February 2016, more than 233,000 households in Connecticut received SNAP; 35 percent had children.
  • The President’s budget proposal includes cuts to Social Security Disability, affecting 81,000 individuals in Connecticut, and Supplemental Security Income, with more than 64,000 recipients in the state.
  • The President’s budget provides only level funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant. In Connecticut, unless funding for child care is increased, 1,600 children would lose their child care. 
Issue Area:
Budget and Tax
budget, Federal, Trump
May 23, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (XX): A Draconian Federal Budget

Roger Senserrich

In today's email:


Federal Updates: the President´s 2018 Budget Proposal

The President’s 2018 proposed budget is coming out today. Center for Budget and Policy Priorities’ President Bob Greenstein has this to say about the document:

President Trump’s new budget should lay to rest any belief that he’s looking out for the millions of people the economy has left behind. He proposes steep cuts in basic health, nutrition, and other important assistance for tens of millions of struggling, low- and modest-income Americans, even as he calls for extremely large tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest people and profitable corporations.

This disturbing budget would turn the United States into a coarser nation, making life harder for most of those struggling to get by but more luxurious for those at the very top.  Most Americans do not seek a new Gilded Age. And the budget is sharply at odds with what the President told voters he would do during his campaign. With this budget, the President betrays many voters who placed their trust in him.

In fact, this stands as the most radical, Robin-Hood-in-reverse budget that any modern President has ever proposed.

The budget proposal includes cuts to Medicaid, SNAP, Social Security Disability Insurance, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. It is hard to understate how draconian this budget proposal is; the impact on not just low-income children and families, but on the most vulnerable, is staggering.

You can read their analysis here and check our blog post about the impact of federal grants on Connecticut’s budget. Today’s piece in the CT Mirror, Trump’s Budget Would Rip Safety Net For The Poor, also has important details.   

Budget Talks and Union Concessions

Budget negotiations are underway at the Capitol, with the Governor and legislative leaders set to meet this week to start mapping a plan forward from the four proposals currently on the table. We are working on our analysis, to be published in the coming days.

The only concrete news so far this week is the report that Governor Malloy and public sector unions have agreed to a tentative deal with $1.6 billion in concessions. All budget proposals so far have included this cut. The CT Mirror has the overview.


News: Bills Moving Forward

S.B. 910 An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Department of Education

This bill includes a variety of technical fixes for education issues. We are especially interested in some reporting changes for school discipline that will enable school districts to have a more nuanced view of school absenteeism. The bill has been passed both by the House and the Senate, and is now waiting for the Governor’s signature.

S.B. 894 An Act Establishing the State Oversight Council on Children and Families.

This bill provides additional oversight over the Department of Children and Families (DCF). It passed unanimously in the Senate and is now waiting to be called in the House. You can read our testimony here.

S.B. 126 An Act Concerning Community Health Workers

This bill establishes a statutory definition for a “community health worker” and requires the Department of Public Health (DPH) to examine the roles and responsibilities of community health workers in the state. The bill is currently awaiting action in the Senate.

H.B. 6099 An Act Establishing a Child Care Facility Neighbor Relations Task Force.

This bill establishes a task force to study strategies for the improvement of relationships between residents of child care facilities licensed by the Department of Children and Families and residents of the municipalities in which such facilities are located. The bill passed the House with wide bipartisan support and is waiting action in the Senate.


Spotlight: The Importance of the Office of Early Childhood

Several budget proposals seek to dissolve the Office of Early Childhood (OEC) into the Department of Education (SDE).

We are skeptical that this move will produce any relevant savings or make OEC programs, like Care 4 Kids, any 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 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 OEC programs back to SDE would weaken this structure, and the early care and education system as a whole.

Second, although some legislators have mentioned that hosting OEC programs within other larger agencies will help protect their funding, past experience shows that they would remain vulnerable. Care 4 Kids, for instance, saw severe cuts between 2002 and 2005 under the Department of Social Services (DSS); the program closed almost completely, with enrollment dropping by half. Access to TANF funding for early care initiatives would likely prove elusive in a context of diminishing federal funding and competing priorities.

Earlier this session, we testified against other proposals that would weaken or dismantle the OEC. You can read our testimony here.



Our Families Can’t Wait Lobby Day

The Governor’s revised budget includes new, deep cuts to Department of Developmental Services (DDS) that further erode our state’s human services safety net, including sharp reductions in the ID Partnership Initiative, the closure of DDS camps, and eliminating Medicaid funded in-home supports.

Our Families Can’t Wait is hosting a lobbying date to protect low-income families on Wednesday, May 31st at 11am at the Legislative Office Building (300 Capitol Ave, Hartford, CT). To register, call family organizer Colleen McGill at (571) 206-7793, or email

The budget cannot be balanced with cuts alone - balanced revenue must be a part of the solution. Now you have an opportunity to come and speak up.

Budget Panel at the Connecticut Town & City Association Annual Meeting

Derek Thomas, Fiscal Policy Fellow here at Voices, will participate in a panel about taxation and the spending cap at the Connecticut Town & City Association Annual Meeting on June 2nd. Other panel participants include Kevin Sullivan, Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services, William Cibes, former Office of Policy and Management (OPM) Director, Manisha Srivasrava, Budget Analyst at OPM, and Joe Brenan, CBIA’s Executive Director. Bob Santy, from the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC), will moderate the panel.

The event will take place at Saint Clements Castle (1391 Portland Cobalt Road, Portland, CT), from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. Registration is required, cost is $100 per person. Email John Ward for more information.


What We Are Reading/ Listening to

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Early Care, Family Economic Security
May 16, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (XIX): more budget cuts

Roger Senserrich

In today's email:


The Governor’s revised budget proposal

The Connecticut state budget continues to dominate the agenda at the Capitol. After the unexpected news of a large deficit increase two weeks ago, the Governor put forward today his revised budget proposal. The CT Mirror has a good overview. The plan includes additional cuts to services, steep cuts to municipal aid (mainly the Municipal Sharing Account and the Mashantucket Pequot Fund), and very little new revenue.

This is unfortunate. The solution to Connecticut’s budget woes lies not with short-term budget cuts and belt-tightening but with longer-term economic planning grounded in a vision of shared prosperity and equitable opportunity for every child in our state. This requires a balanced approach with reforms on both the expense and revenue side of the ledger. This means new revenue by modernizing sales taxes, closing tax loopholes, and fixing our upside-down tax structure where wealthy taxpayers pay lower tax rates than low-income families. It also means comprehensive, long-term efforts to control fixed costs and long term obligations, as we explained in our recent budget policy brief.

We are currently conducting a close review of the proposal, so expect a detailed analysis in the coming days.

The Governor’s Deficit Mitigation Plan

In addition to presenting a revised budget proposal, Governor Malloy also presented a plan to cover this fiscal year’s deficit (FY17), caused by lower-than-projected tax receipts. You can find the full document here; the CT Mirror and CT News Junkie each provide a good overview. The gap is roughly $390 million, and th Governor proposes to close it by completely emptying the state’s rainy day fund and reducing municipal aid. The complete lack of any budget reserve leaves the state vulnerable to any further revenue erosion or emergencies. The plan relies in part on approval from the legislature, which has expressed reluctance to cut town aid so close to the end of the fiscal year.

Op Ed: Ellen Shemitz at the Hartford Courant

Our Executive Director published an op-ed on May 9th charting a path forward for the state budget:

The solution to Connecticut's budget woes lies with long-term economic planning and a vision of shared prosperity and equitable opportunity for every child in our state, not with short-term budget cuts and belt-tightening.

Over the past few weeks, however, lawmakers and pundits have suggested that the path to state prosperity depends solely upon cutting services and seeking labor concessions. They are calling for yet another austerity budget, following nearly $1 billion dollars in budget cuts last year alone.

We need a new approach: one that reflects an understanding of the choices that led to the current mess and one that considers all of the key budget drivers.

Continue reading here.

Spotlight: Where is the New Budget Gap Coming From?

The big elephant in the room regarding the current fiscal year budget continues to be the unexpected drop in income tax revenue in April compared to previous revenue estimates.

First of all, this drop in revenue is not unique to Connecticut; other states, including Massachusetts, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, are seeing similar shortfalls. These states report an interesting pattern: payroll tax revenue collections (that is, income taxes collected from wages) remain stable or are growing at a modest clip, while self-reported income tax collections have dropped. Self-reported income, especially for high earners, comes from the stock market and other investments; these taxpayers have a good amount of flexibility on when to realize gains. This year, many taxpayers seem to have elected to defer earnings, possibly in anticipation of a tax cut at the federal level (this Boston Globe piece has more), resulting in a big drop in state income tax revenue. For Connecticut, first quarter tax data seems to follow this pattern, but we will not be able to confirm the story until we have the state figures for April.

The most important takeaway relates to the issue of stability. The income tax is inherently unstable. Given the state’s reliance on income tax revenue, we need to prioritize building up a meaningful “rainy day fund” at the same time as we modernize our tax system, rebalancing it so that it meets all of the criteria of a highly efficient tax system: equity, neutrality, adequacy, transparency, simplicity, and predictability.

Bills of Interest

Great news! Conversion Therapy Ban for Youth Signed into Law

One piece of good news: Governor Malloy signed into law a ban on sexual orientation conversion therapy for youth last week. Sexual orientation conversion therapies are ineffective and place vulnerable youth at greater risk of depression and suicide. The bill banning these practices received overwhelming support in both chambers; the CT Mirror has the full story. You can read our testimony in support of the bill here.  

Other bills:

S.B. 894: An Act Establishing the State Oversight Council on Children and Families. This bill would provide independent oversight to the Department of Children and Families through a council comprised of legislators, service providers, youth, parents, medical experts, legal experts, and advocates. It is currently waiting to be called for a vote in the Senate. We testified in support of the bill. Dr. Lauren Ruth, our Youth Policy Fellow, recently published an op-ed in the the New Haven Register on this issue.

H.B. 5442 An Act Concerning the Legal Age to Marriage. This bill raises the legal age to marriage to eighteen, with a few guardian and probate-court controlled exceptions for sixteen and seventeen year olds. The purpose of this bill is to reduce child trafficking that may occur through child marriage. The bill passed the House with overwhelming support, and it is currently waiting for a vote in the Senate.

HUSKY: Take Action Against Cuts

The state budget crisis has put HUSKY A parents’ health insurance coverage at risk. HUSKY A is the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care coverage for low-income parents and their children.

This year’s proposed cut  would impact 9,500 parents with incomes between 138 percent to 155 percent of the federal poverty level. That means that a family of three making just over $2,350 a month will lose coverage. For many of these families, buying private coverage Access Health CT (the state exchange) will be out of reach, even with subsidies.

Even worse, this is only one of many cuts and tax increases that target the same groups of low-income families in the state.

At a time when HUSKY/Medicaid programs are under threat from Washington, DC, we can’t allow the state’s budget crisis to harm families even more. It is time to call your state legislators and tell them NO to HUSKY cuts.

Click here to find your legislator. For more information on the cuts and talking points, click here.

Legislative Arcana: Budget Revisions

If the state's budget gets too out of balance during the year, the Governor is required to issue a "Deficit Mitigation Plan" to close the gap. Deficit Mitigation Plans have a language of their own. Here are some of the most common terms and procedures used in these documents:

  • Holdback: An amount of money retained by the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) from an agency to achieve savings.  
  • Lapse:  Appropriated funds that an agency does not or cannot spend by the end of the fiscal year and that they are not allowed to keep. A lapse may be naturally occurring (the agency used less money than they expected), or may be a “budgeted” lapse, which is programmed by the General Assembly specifically to achieve savings.
  • Rescission: A rescission is a cut that the Governor makes as to close a budget gap in the current fiscal year. The Governor can reduce state agency allotments by up to: (1) 3 percent of the total appropriations from any fund or (2) 5 percent of any appropriations. If the projected deficit is more than 1% of General Fund appropriations, the Governor may seek Finance Advisory Committee approval to reduce total appropriations from any fund by up to 5%.  
  • Transfers: The movement of funds from one funding category to another. This includes moving funds from one state account, like the Transportation Fund, to the General Fund.

Learn more about wonky budget terms here.

What We Are Reading/ Listening to:

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Health
May 9, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (XVIII): A Better Approach to Budgeting

Roger Senserrich

In today's email:

  • Our new policy brief compares state budget proposals submitted by the Governor, the Legislature, and Republican leadership
  • The Affordable Care Act is again under threat

NEW BRIEF: A Better Approach to Budgeting - Concerns about the Austerity Approach of State Budget Proposals

In our new report, we look at at three budget proposals from the Governor, Legislature, and Republican leadership.

Our conclusion: all three adopt an unbalanced austerity approach that fails to address Connecticut's long-term structural challenges.

The three proposals include deep cuts to crucial programs and services for children and low-income families. None of the proposals address an outdated tax code that does not align with today's economy, and all three include both tax increases for low-income families and tax cuts for high-wealth taxpayers.

Furthermore, each proposal is now out of balance following new budget deficit projections, which increased the total deficit forecast of $3.6 billion for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 to approximately $5 billion.

So what’s next?

We expect that between now and Friday we are going to see at least three budget plans, as the Governor, Democrats, and Republican leaders update their proposals to reflect the new larger deficits.

We believe that the solution to Connecticut’s budget woes should:

  • Look to long-term solutions that will reassure businesses and families that Connecticut is committed to addressing its structural challenges;
  • Recognize that structural challenges require structural overhauls to our outdated tax system; and
  • Make strategic investments that position Connecticut to be competitive in the 21st-century knowledge economy.

Connecticut Voices for Children will continue advocating for the reforms we need to address the long-term challenges Connecticut faces. Cutting spending with no new taxes might balance the budget this year, but it will not solve our problems. What we really need now is bold action, fearing not taxes but rather the lost potential of our children, families, and communities.

You can download the full report here.

The AHCA Moves Forward

Last Thursday, the Republican House majority in Congress passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the first step to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The bill will now be considered by the Senate.

The current version of the AHCA, in fact, is even more harmful than the initial draft of the bill that was debated in March. The AHCA included huge cuts to Medicaid ($880 billion over 10 years) and to health care subsidies in the exchanges, paid for by a massive tax cut for the wealthy, that would have led to 24 million people nationwide losing health insurance coverage. The impact of the Medicaid cuts would be wide ranging, affecting children with special health care needs in schools to individuals needing addiction treatment.

The newer version of the bill approved by the House also dramatically weakens protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions, as well as letting states reduce the essential health benefits covered by private insurance or eliminate the lifetime benefit cap ban.

The AHCA as passed by the House would have a terrible impact on the health care of hundreds of thousands of people in Connecticut. Premiums will likely skyrocket for older workers. Many people won't be able to afford coverage. Cuts to Medicaid funding will force the state to reduce HUSKY eligibility, leaving many families without health insurance.

It is likely that the Senate will introduce significant changes to the proposal, or even completely rewrite it. Senate approval is by no means guaranteed. In any case, it is time to call Senator Blumenthal and Senator Murphy´s office and ask them to stand firm in opposing the AHCA in its current form.

Event: Kids Count forum

On May 15th from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM, CAHS, in conjunction with the Commission on Women, Children, and Seniors, will release their new Kids Count Special Report: Race Equity in the Five Connecticuts.

The data book explores racial inequity throughout five different areas in Connecticut: rural, suburban, urban periphery, urban, and wealthy. Click here to register.

What We Are Reading

Issue Area:
Budget and Tax
May 2, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (XVII): some good news amidst a worsening budget

Roger Senserrich

In today's email:

Good News! Business Tax Breaks Oversight Bill Moves Forward

Amidst the worsening state budget, we’re happy to report some good news. H.B. 7316, a bill that seeks to improve transparency and oversight of business tax breaks was voted unanimously out of the Finance Committee last week. The bipartisan bill would require evaluation of all business assistance and incentive programs and require public hearings to discuss the results of the evaluations.

We at CT Voices have called on lawmakers to address the systemic challenges in our revenue systems, including our corporate income tax system. Ensuring that business tax breaks receive the same scrutiny as spending on education, health care, and other building blocks to a healthy economy is a step in the right direction.

ICYMI: Our recent report estimated that Connecticut will hand out $707 million in business tax breaks this fiscal year (FY 2017).  From FY 2016 to FY 2017, the cost of business tax breaks (in absolute dollars) increased by $12 million while spending on children (as defined by our Children’s Budget) decreased by $81.2 million.

News: Connecticut’s Dismal State Budget

Last week, the Appropriations Committee, Finance Committee, and Republican Party presented their budget proposals. Following today’s consensus revenue estimate, all proposals are out of balance by nearly $1.5 billion. According to the estimates, the newly-projected budget deficit is now $2.2 billion for FY 2018 and $2.7 billion in FY 2019.

Connecticut’s financial woes are the result of years of mismanagement: the state put state workers’ pensions on its credit card for decades, and ignored changes in the economy (such as the shift to services and its impact on the sales tax) that eroded its tax collections. Economic development policies have focused on one-off deals instead of working to revitalize our cities and attract new jobs, young professionals, and entrepreneurs. Above all, we have neglected the need to build a strong foundation for children and families based on education, workforce development, infrastructure, and investments in our cities to ensure equitable economic growth.

We need a balanced, long-term approach - and this will entail adopting bold reforms that look both at the spending and the revenue side of the budget. We need new strategies for growth, better strategies to target spending, and new revenue sources so we can address the state’s priorities and provide equitable opportunity for all in the state. If we stay the course, do not look at real reforms, and try to close the gap just with spending cuts, Connecticut will put its long-term prosperity at risk.

Stay tuned for a more detailed analysis/response to the budget proposals.

Other news: Bills of Interest

Some updates on some of the bills we have been tracking this session:

  • S.B. 894: this bill would create a Child Welfare Oversight Council for children under the care of the Department of Children and Families. It moved out of committee and is awaiting a vote in the Senate. You can read our testimony here.
  • H.B. 7286, S.B. 1025: these bills will create the structures to coordinate services and supports to help divert youth from juvenile justice involvement. These services are needed so that the Juvenile Training School can be closed and youth can be served within their communities or, when necessary, evidence-based small residences. They are awaiting votes in the House and Senate. You can read our testimony here.
  • H.B.7270, H.B. 7255: a couple of study bills focused on special education funding and the Education Cost Sharing Formula. Both of them are waiting action in the House; you can read our testimony here and here.

Event: Equitable Access to Early Care and Education Forum

The Commission on Women, Children and Seniors and the Office of Early Childhood are hosting a discussion on equity and access to early childhood this Thursday, May 4, from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM at the Legislative Office Building (300 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, Room 1D). The event will focus around the new policy report, “Cradle to Kindergarten: A new Plan to Combat Inequality.” Hear from the two authors, Ajay Chaudry and Chistina Wiland, who will lead the conversation and introduce their recommendations.

What We Are Reading/ Listening to

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Early Care, Education