Wednesday evening marked the end of the very unpredictable 2014 Legislative Session, and Connecticut’s low-income children and families have much to celebrate! The past few months have seen an increase to the minimum wage, a partial restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit, and a major expansion of the state’s early childhood care and education programs. The budget also included a substantial increase in funding for remedial education at the state’s higher education institutions and protected resources that go to the state’s legal aid clinics – both investments being critical for our state’s most vulnerable citizens.
Below we have highlighted a few of the “good”, “bad” and “ugly” legislative developments. Our full breakdown of all the bills we had been watching that affect low-income children and families is available here.
- Connecticut is First State to Raise the Minimum Wage to $10.10. Public Act 14-1 increases the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017. This increase will directly help 140,000 workers, many of whom are women leading single parent families, move out of poverty. A higher minimum wages means greater financial stability for vulnerable parents and children, reduced need for government safety net programs, and higher earnings for students who are working to pay for college.
- Budget Agreement Restores CT’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to 27.5% of the federal EITC. In 2012, Connecticut implemented a state EITC equal to 30% of the federal EITC. This was reduced in the last legislative session to 25% of the federal EITC for 2014. Despite late session concerns about the budget and available resources, the legislature restored the EITC to 27.5% for 2015, as called for in the biennial budget. Research shows that the EITC is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs that are directly targeted to low-income working families.
- Full Establishment of the Office of Early Childhood. Governor Malloy created the Office of Early Childhood by Executive Order in 2013, to help ensure a strong and effective system of care and education for young children. Previously personnel and programs that made up the state’s early care and education “non-system” were scattered across five agencies – creating confusion and inconsistency. The legislature brought much needed stability by enacting HB 5562, which puts the Office of Early Childhood in law.
- Senate Fails to Pass Legislation Tackling the Issue of Chronic Absence. Both national and state-level research demonstrates that when children miss more than 10% of the school year, regardless of the reason, they fall behind and almost never catch up. Legislation that would define the problem of chronic absence, and provide school resources to help families with frequently absent children, was never called by the Senate after passing the House, 93-44.
- “Pay It Forward” College Payment Study Does Not Garner Enough Support. A bill that would have the state study the feasibility of having students attend public universities for free, in exchange for a portion of future earnings, failed to be voted on the Senate before the close of session.
- A Shaky Budget. After the legislature unveiled their budget on Saturday, critics expressed concerns with some of the measures used to balance it. Particularly troubling was a $75 million line item that relied on the collection of back taxes, with few details about how this funding would be recovered. While we applaud the legislature for its support for low-income families in this budget, it is equally important that we are honest about the state’s finances to ensure the CT is able to continue funding our safety net programs for years to come.
- Remedial Education Reform Delayed. Connecticut approved an ambitious reform for remedial education in 2012. For the past two years, the Board of Regents has worked with state universities and community colleges to implement the changes. As some institutions have struggled to meet the fall 2014 deadline to fully roll out the reform, the legislature has decided to give the option to community colleges to delay its implementation until 2015. This may postpone some much needed changes in the system, but the legislation opens the door for those colleges that are ready to roll out the reform.
We want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your support through out this session — these successes would have been impossible without you! We look forward to building on this momentum, and to continue the fight for policies that allow all children and families thrive, regardless of income, in 2015.