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Voices Speaking

June 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Issue Area:
Budget and Tax
June 26, 2017

Webinar: A Better Approach for the State Budget

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

The current budget proposals adopt an austerity mindset.  

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

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

Issue Area:
Budget and Tax
Tags:
#CTbudget, budget, Connecticut, Webinar
June 22, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (XXIV): Looking Back, Looking Forward

Roger Senserrich

In today's email:

 

Budget Deadlines

What happens if no budget has passed before the end of the fiscal year? Keith Phaneuf published a long article in the CT Mirror with an extended explanation on what we know and what we do not know about the state’s finances if we do not have a budget agreement by the end of this fiscal year, June 30.

“For more than 100 years, Connecticut has periodically grappled with what to do when the fiscal year begins and a new budget is not in place to greet it.

But with just 15 days left in the outgoing fiscal year — and a $2.3 billion deficit looming after that — gridlocked legislators’ inability to adopt a new budget has huge repercussions across a wide spectrum.

Big question marks already hang over some social services for children, the poor and disabled, as well as certain aid to cities and towns.”

The title of the article says it all: Without a CT budget by July 1, the options are all bad.

 

Chart of the Week: Budget Gimmicks

None of the four budget proposals under consideration at the Capitol (Governor, House Republicans, Senate Republicans and Democrats) addresses the need for reliable, sustainable new revenue. Instead, they all largely rely on transferring monies between accounts.

Most of the money comes from raiding the Municipal Revenue Sharing Account and Special Transportation Fund. Diverting these dollars will likely result in increased property taxes, cuts in municipal services, and/or delayed improvements to critical infrastructure. After excluding these transfers, only the proposals from the Governor and the Democrats actually raise new funds, although even in these two cases the vast majority of revenue still comes from short term gimmicks.

Download our complete analysis of the four budget proposals here.  

 

The Affordable Care Act is in Real Danger

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

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

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

 

Events

CT Data Days: Equip, Synthesize, and Mobilize with Data:

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

Senator Blumenthal: ACA Repeal Field Hearing

At 1:30 p.m. on Friday, June 23 at New Haven City Hall, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal will convene a second emergency field hearing as GOP Senate leadership continues its secret efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and strip coverage from millions of Americans.

Please RSVP to Elizabeth_benton@blumenthal.senate.gov and indicate whether you would like to be placed on the list to testify.

 

Legislative Session Review

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

Despite this, the General Assembly did consider and pass a significant number of bills that affect children and families, as well as some important provisions that will directly impact the state´s long-term fiscal health. We will be releasing a legislative brief this week with the most important bills we tracked and advocated for during the session.

 

What We Are Reading/ Listening to

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Early Care, Health
June 13, 2017

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

Roger Senserrich

In today's email:

 

Not Over Yet: the Special Session

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

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

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

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

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

 

Budget Deadlines

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Call to Action

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

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

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

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

 

The Affordable Care Act is in Real Danger

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

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

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

 

Events

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

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

 

What We Are Reading/ Listening to

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Family Economic Security, Health
June 7, 2017

Voices from the Capitol (XXII): Who is Leaving Connecticut?

Roger Senserrich

In today's email:

Spotlight: the Need for New Revenue

The legislative session will come to a close today at midnight. Any bill that has failed to pass by then will be left on the sidelines, giving a sense of urgency to this last few hours at the Capitol.

It now seems clear that legislators will not have reached a budget agreement before this deadline, making a special session likely.

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

We have talked about Connecticut’s budget woes elsewhere, most recently in our reports analyzing the four rounds (so far) of budget proposals from the Governor, Democrats and Republicans. It is hard, however, to overstate the magnitude of the problem at hand. The state is facing a $5 billion deficit for the next two years, more than ten percent of the general fund. Even with labor concessions, all budget proposals have included deep cuts in programs that serve children and families. Early care, education, universities, health insurance, after-school programs, juvenile justice initiatives - they are all at risk.

We believe that all children should be able to reach their full potential. These cuts not only betray our commitment as a state to fulfill that goal, but also threaten Connecticut’s continued prosperity. Quality, equitable education, healthy children and families, a well-qualified workforce, and solid infrastructures are the cornerstones of economic growth, and should be our main budget priority. A cuts-only approach to the state budget, like we have seen time and time again in this year's budget proposals, weakens the foundations of current and future economic growth in the state.

It is time to take action.

Call your  legislators and tell them that  that need a balanced approach that seeks new revenue by modernizing the sales tax system, requiring greater scrutiny of business tax breaks, and reforming the weakened corporate tax. By doing this, Connecticut can raise critically needed revenue and ensure future stability to the revenue system.

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

 

HUSKY: the Impact of Cost Sharing

Three of the four budget proposals under discussion at the Capitol have one thing in common: reduced eligibility for low-income parents for HUSKY. The Governor, Democrats, and Senate Republicans would reduce income eligibility for parents of children on HUSKY A from 155 percent FPL to 138 percent FPL ($27,821 for a family of three), affecting approximately 9,500 low-income parents.

This proposal assumes that newly uninsured parents would obtain health insurance coverage through Access Health CT, the state health insurance exchange, and receive subsidized private coverage paying very modest premiums. Experience in Connecticut has already demonstrated that parents with incomes slightly above the threshold cannot afford to purchase coverage even with subsidies. Now a recent study from Kaiser, however, suggests that even modest cost sharing is often enough to force many low-income parents to remain uninsured. The research also finds that cost sharing can have unintended consequences -  reduced access to basic care can lead to increased use of emergency rooms, as well as increased costs associated with uncontrolled chronic conditions.

The study concludes that savings from premiums and cost sharing in Medicaid and CHIP (HUSKY B)  are limited, by a combination of increased use of more expensive health services and increased pressure to safety net providers, like community health centers and hospitals.

You can read the full report here.

 

More News: Bills Moving Forward

H.B. 7316 An Act Concerning Evaluation of Business Assistance and Incentive Programs

This bill would require greater public scrutiny and transparency of the hundreds of millions of dollars Connecticut spends on business tax breaks. After passing the House unanimously, lawmakers are now proposing to amend the bill to a larger bill, S.B. 966, also covering business incentives, to include H.B. 7316’s provisions. S.B. 966 is currently awaiting action in the Senate, and will then need House approval.

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

This is the bill that would create the State Oversight Council on Children and Families. We have mentioned this bill in previous newsletters, and you can read our op-ed about it here. It is currently waiting for a vote in the House after receiving unanimous support in the Senate. The bill has broad bipartisan support, so calling your Representative can help move it across the finish line.

S.B. 126 An Act Concerning Community Health Workers

The bill passed the House last night, and will be signed into law by the Governor. The bill is an important step toward recognizing the great work of community health workers by defining them in statute. Take a moment to thank the Members of the House and Senate who voted in support of the bill.

S.B. 912 An Act Concerning Revisions to the Staff Qualifications Requirements for Early Childhood Educators

The bill allows early childhood educators that graduated in regionally accredited schools to teach in Connecticut. We supported the initiative. After passing both houses, it will be sent to the Governor for his signature.  

 

Chart of the Week - Who's Really Leaving Connecticut?

The CT Collaborative Data along with The Office of Policy and Management just released a report on migration and population trends in Connecticut. The report found that the number of tax returns filed for income groups above $100,000 have steadily increased since 2010, while the number of returns filed by low- to middle-income households declined.

 

 

Legislative Arcana: the Special Session

As we mentioned above, the session is ending Wednesday, June 7th, but the business of the General Assembly will remain unfinished. This means that they will have to meet in a Special Session to complete the budget.

A Special Session is a meeting of the General Assembly called for a particular purpose. As a result, no bills outside the narrow list of tasks that the session was called for are allowed. Special Sessions are called by the Governor or a majority of legislators. For this Special Session in particular, lawmakers will be focused on the budget, with the aim of getting one passed before the end of the fiscal year on June 30. If there is no budget by the deadline on that date, budget rules get a bit complicated; we will talk about them if we get to that point.

What We Are Reading/ Listening to

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Family Economic Security, Health
June 7, 2017

TAKE ACTION! Bipartisan Bill to Subject Business Tax Breaks to Public Scrutiny Under Threat

A bipartisan bill that would require greater public scrutiny and transparency to the hundreds of millions of dollars Connecticut spends on business tax breaks every year is being threatened.  
 
After passing the House unanimously, lawmakers are now proposing to amend the bill (HB 7316) into a larger, more controversial bill that Governor Malloy has threatened to veto.
 
Unlike General Fund spending on education, infrastructure, and social services, business tax breaks lack transparency. Once on the books, they can remain for years, or even decades, without scrutiny.
 
Take action by contacting the Finance Committee Co-Chairs Senator Frantz and Senator Fonfara, and Senate leadership Senator Looney and Senator Fasano.
 
Tell them that transparency and public scrutiny are now more important than ever as budget deficits force lawmakers to make drastic cuts to programs that impact children and families. Ask them to keep the bill clean.
Issue Area:
Budget and Tax

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