November 2017

Impact of the Final FY 18-19 Budget on Children and Families

Ray Noonan, Lauren Ruth, Ph.D., Ellen Shemitz, J.D., Karen Siegel, Camara Stokes Hudson, and Nicole Updegrove

More than a hundred days after the new fiscal year began, legislators finally found sufficient common ground to pass a budget. The final document passed with a supermajority vote, an encouraging display of bipartisanship to end an often-gridlocked session.

However, the content of the budget agreement includes many troubling provisions, violating the best-practice budgeting principles of equity, transparency, and sustainability. In terms of equity, the budget marks an all-time low in the share of state funding directly devoted children and families, marked by troubling cuts to essential components of thriving communities. In terms of transparency, the budget relies on a series of one-time revenue gimmicks that provide the appearance, but not the reality, of balance. In terms of sustainability, the budget lacks any comprehensive structural solutions to our state’s challenges that, when combined with new restrictions on the state’s ability to invest in critical services, leaves the state unprepared to address the challenges of a 21st-century society.

Key Findings:

  • The Children’s Budget, the share of state spending in children and families, reached a record low in the latest state budget, declining to 27.8 percent of the budget, down from 29.5 percent in fiscal year 2017.
  • For the first time, state spending in fixed costs (debt service, retiree health care, pensions, and bonding) took a larger share of the budget (29.5 percent) than what the state spends on children and families.
  • The General Assembly also approved sweeping changes to the state’s constitutional spending cap, expanding the categories of spending covered by the cap and making it more likely that the state’s growing fixed costs will crowd out other essential programs, services, and investments.
  • The only significant tax changes reflect upside-down priorities: reducing the Earned Income and Property Tax Credits that benefit lower-earning working families, while increasing protections for intergenerational wealth transfer through modifications to the estate tax.
Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Early Care, Education, Family Economic Security, Health, Juvenile Justice