The 2016 legislative session is in its final days, but things are far from clearing up. The state budget news just keep getting worse, and the Legislature and Governor are again at odds on how to close the deficit.
It is not
all bad news, however - some good bills are waiting to get a vote, and need your support. Let´s have a look!
Connecticut´s no good, terrible budget mess
Sometimes things just keep getting worse.
We started the session with what seemed to be a balanced budget for this fiscal year (FY16, ending June 30) and a grim but manageable deficit for next year (FY17). The
Governor´s budget proposal
was short on details and included no new revenue, with $570 million in cuts.
Come March, new budget projections came out. The FY17 deficit almost doubled to $911 million; to make things worse, FY16 was no longer balanced. Governor and legislature had to make $266 million in further cuts to FY16, on top of the ones made in last year´s special session.
Then the Appropriations and Finance Committee released their budget for FY17, and things started to get weird.
The Legislature added more detail to the Governor´s plan and softened some of the service cuts, while
still not raising taxes
. Trouble is,
only covered $570 million in cuts, not the whole expected FY17 deficit. Someone needed to find more savings or revenue somewhere.
As a result, a slightly irritated Governor presented an updated budget proposal covering the whole shortfall, with yet more cuts. Legislative leaders were not really happy about this and vowed to draft, consider and pass a budget proposal on their own, without negotiating with the Governor, sending it to his desk even if he might veto the bill.
What´s next? The date everyone has in mind is tomorrow April 26, when the final budget projections for FY17 will likely come out. That day we will learn exactly how big the deficit is for next year. Best case scenario, income tax collections improve slightly, and we see a deficit below $900 million.
Worst case scenario, budget hole deepens, the General Assembly sends the Governor a budget, and he vetoes it.
Suffice it to say, we don´t see best case scenarios often as of late. We might end up in a special session, past the May 4 deadline.
What can we do now?
Short term, now it is a good time to call your legislator, no matter in what committee he or she sits (you can look up their contact information here). Legislative leaders are swamped right now, but they will pay attention to their rank and file.
Tell your legislators to protect crucial social services and the most vulnerable. These programs are investments in Connecticut´s future; cutting them now hurts us in the long term. Make them see that these cuts are real, and inflict real pain.
Tell them not to cut municipal and education aid to the poorest towns and cities in the states. That only shifts tax increases downward, to the places that can least afford them (wealthy towns can afford the cuts, though).
At this point, we do not see enough support for new revenue, but you can mention it. Every bit helps. Legislators do pay attention to what they hear from their districts, and leadership will need every single vote to get this budget passed.
We have not forgotten our two long articles about the sources of Connecticut´s budget crisis. In fact, you
can download them here
in a single PDF, in case you want to share them with your legislators (please do!).
Right now everyone at the Capitol is trying to put out the current deficit fire, but it is increasingly clear that
things need to change
. Connecticut needs some real reforms on how we raise revenue, how we spend it, and how we budget.
These two articles
are intended to be the kernel of a longer term policy agenda to
fix our permanent fiscal crisis, and do it in a way that creates opportunity for all
in the state, without leaving anyone behind.
And for that, we will really need your help. Stay tuned.
The 2016 legislative session
Bills moving forward
Not everything is bad news - a few good bills are still on track, including two that would make a huge difference for Connecticut´s families: paid family leave and retirement security.
Paid family leave made it out of committee, and reached the floor. Although the bill is long-term budget neutral (that is, it includes enough revenue not to affect the deficit), it has some start up costs, so it received a fairly hefty fiscal note. It is currently being amended to make the system budget-neutral in the short term as well, opening the possibility of having an external agency (or private company) manage the fund.
When you call or e-mail your legislator, make sure to express your support. You can find talking points, stories and more information at the
Still there; still has support. There was a great
Google Hangout hosted by the CT Mirror Friday
, if you want to catch up on the bill. It is currently sitting on the House GO list, meaning that is awaiting floor time to get a vote.
Just got to the House calendar, where it needs to spend a couple of days before being eligible to move up to the GO list. As it does not has a fiscal note (aka, it does not cost anything, budget-wise) it has a better chance than most to make it through.
On the house side, sitting on the GO list. Again, no fiscal note, so it has a decent chance to get passed.
Every session there is one bill that we have a weakness for. Last
, this session is S.B. 400. It is still alive, and it is still a good idea. It made it to the Senate, was sent back to Finance, was voted out on Friday, and it is on its way back to the floor.
The only bill on our list so far that got watered down - it started as a way to reduce benefit cliffs for TANF recipients, and had a fiscal note. Now it is a study bill on how to reform some aspects of TANF. Still interesting, still relevant, but a bit less exciting.
Save the date!
Report: children of incarcerated parents, May 26
As Connecticut continues its commitment to criminal justice reform by providing a second chance to those with records, we can't forget the impact that incarceration has on young children. Although every child, and each parent-child relationship, is different, having a parent in jail or prison can be traumatic and result in long-term negative outcomes.
Please join CAHS and CTCIP, along with a panel that includes legislators, state officials, and experts to participate in a conversation about how we can better acknowledge and support youth with incarcerated parents in Connecticut.
You can RSVP to the event
- WHAT: A Shared Sentence: Incarceration of Caregivers and its Impact on Connecticut's Children
- WHEN: May 26, 1 to 3 pm
- WHERE: Connecticut State Capitol, room 310, Hartford, CT
- RSVP: follow this link.
Links, news, findings
A few good
and links we have shared on CAHS´Facebook page during the month. Make sure to "
" us there to get the latest updates!
Connecticut Association for Human Services
The Family Economic Success (FES) Coalition shares information and mobilizes on policy issues that improve the lives of low-income children and families.
Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS) coordinates the FES Coalition.
CAHS works to end poverty, and to engage, equip, and empower all families in Connecticut to build a secure future. Your financial support is most welcome. To donate, please click here.
To subscribe or unsubscribe, or if you have information that you would like to share through the FES Coalition, call Roger Senserrich, Policy Director, at (860) 951-2212, ext. 247, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.