The Governor and the Democrats in the legislature have reached a budget deal, with the expectation of voting on it today. This might be better than the alternative, (a long drawn budget fight on an election year), but gives us very little time to look at the numbers in any detail.
After going over the initial budget spreadsheets early this morning, here is our quick take. We will try to update you as we learn more.
Top line numbers
The budget deficit for FY2017 is currently projected to be around $960 million. The agreement closes it by:
- $830 million in budget cuts (more details below)
- $50 million in transfers from the Municipal Revenue Sharing Fund. This is the fund created last year to use sales tax revenue for property tax relief.
- $50 million from the State Transportation Fund. This was also created last year, also setting aside sales tax revenue for transportation projects.
- $36.2 million in "revenue enhancements."
Where are the budget cuts?
Let me start with the good news: The cuts are not as bad as we feared in several budget areas.
- The Office of Early Childhood has a very modest budget cut, from $297 million to $294 million. Many crucial programs hosted there barely see any reductions. Even Start, a two-gen pioneer program that has given very encouraging results, is left intact.
- The Two-Generation pilot initiative, a first step taken by the state to modernize how we deliver services to families, remains funded, with a modest cut.
- Developmental education funding is cut, but stays in the budget. Last year, it was part of another line item - this year, it has a specific line, with funding close to $10 million.
- Adult education, an increasingly important piece of the remedial education system, only sees a very modest cut.
Now, the bad news:
- Medicaid sees a significant cut, again - close to $100 million. It has a huge budget ($2.45 billion) but it is yet another cut, in a program that has seen many of them.
- The Department of Children and Families gets a $40 million cut.
- The Department of Mental Health has a hefty $55 million cut.
- Personnel reductions are widespread in all departments, meaning that layoffs will continue. This is especially worrisome in some direct service departments that are already understaffed.
- Legislative commissions: The six legislative commissions are consolidated into two (Equal Opportunity, and Women and Children), and their total budgets slashed. This is a big loss - the commissions offer unique perspectives and voices to legislators and many issues. Each has been instrumental in drafting some key reforms in the past few years. This could be a tough loss.
The question mark:
- The education equalization grants have huge cuts ($145 million), but it is too early to tell where they fall. This is the funding that goes to municipalities, in theory, distributed using the ECS formula. In practice, a few wealthy towns still get a considerable amount of money, even if they have really low local property taxes. Depending on how the cuts are assigned, this might only affect towns that can afford it, or penalize everyone across the board. We will see.
What is left out
There is no real revenue or spending reform in this budget; the long-term structural problems that have plagued the state remain.
The cuts are piece meal, without any real sense of evaluating what works and what does not. The modest attempt at property tax reform (one of the clumsiest, most inefficient taxes in the state) from last year was weakened even before it started being implemented. Tax expenditures were left untouched. This is not surprising considering the pressures of a short legislative session, but is still discouraging.
It's a race against the clock, more or less, as the legislative session ends today at midnight. Democrats probably have the votes to get the budget through. Republicans, however, were not part of the last round of budget talks, and can slow down the legislative process to the point that the General Assembly just runs out of time to pass the budget before the deadline.
What usually happens is that the majority party works with the minority to get some of their priorities passed, be it in the budget, or in other bills that they support or sponsor.
Let me suggest S.B.400, our favorite workforce development/brownfield remediation bill, which is currently stuck in the Senate. It is Republican bill, with bipartisan support after all!
Still time to make a difference!
We are at a point where things are almost final, but not quite. There is still time to call your legislators and make a difference, especially in line items that are comparatively small.
We strongly encourage you to call your legislator regarding the legislative commissions (Aging, Women, Children, African American, Latino and Asian), as they have proved an invaluable voice for many groups that usually do not have a strong voice at the Capitol.
As usual, feel free to call or e-mail us if you have any questions.
Yesterday at midnight the 2016 legislative session came to a close. It was a strange year in many ways. Although we will be writing a longer recap soon, we wanted to share some initial notes of what happened, what passed, and what is left to do in this 2016 session. Let´s see.
|The main story: no budget yet|
The one thing that did not happen yesterday was the budget. The Governor and Democratic legislators did have an agreement (we covered it yesterday), but it was not brought up for a vote.
Why this happened depends on who you ask; some observers say that they did not have the votes in the House to pass it, some say that there was a consensus that legislators needed more time to pore over the numbers. The budget will be voted in a special session next week (probably Thursday), so the session is not really quite over yet.
To tell the truth, not getting the budget through yesterday was probably a good decision, as it allowed the General Assembly to vote on a whole bunch of legislation without having to scramble. Legislators could focus on other priorities, avoiding the pressure of having a messy and rushed budget debate right until the very end.
Namely, we got some good news out of it. See bellow.
|Some good bills|
Let me start with the good news: some very good pieces of legislation were approved this session, some of them at the very last moment.
|What did not make it|
We had some good bills, however, that failed to pass:
A special session for both the budget and the implementer is scheduled next week. We do not expect many surprises. The legislative commissions are still on the line, so it is still a good idea to reach out to your legislators and tell them to keep them funded. They are an invaluable resource for many groups that otherwise would not have a voice at the Capitol.
The only other bill that will be discussed in the special session in S.B. 18, the second chance society initiative. Surprisingly, it was not debated in the Senate, despite being one of the Governor´s top priorities. It has quite a few very good reforms on it, so we would welcome its approval.
Plus, it will be a nice lead in to our event about children of incarcerated parents on May 26. We hope to see you there!
It has been an intense, strange session, with a very tough budget looming over any proposed bill. The cuts are going to be painful, and many good pieces of legislation have fallen by the wayside.
But we did get quite a bit accomplished this year. Retirement security, by itself, is a huge deal. Ban the box will immediately improve the employment prospects of thousands of people in the state. The two-gen pilots will continue to lay the groundwork for real, positive reform in how the state supports low income families. Many terrible budget cuts were avoided or minimized.
We could not have done any of this without your help. It was your calls, your advocacy and effort that made the difference. It was the work of many advocates, not just CAHS, that helped to change things for the better.
Connecticut, however, is still facing some real problems. We need more economic growth. We need a collective, intense effort to close our huge racial disparities. We need to fix how our government operates, both on how it raises revenue and how spends money. We need a truly ambitious agenda.
That is going to be our focus in the coming months, and that is going to be our main aim for the 2017 legislative session. We will not be able to do it alone. Can we count with you to move it forward? We are just getting started.
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, their budget 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.
It gets worse. As both sides were talking past each other, this year´s budget got back in the red, with a $141 million deficit. Corporation taxes and fees are coming in below expected, and savings targets are not being hit. In total, the FY16 budget was more than $1 billion off-mark.
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.
- On two-generation strategies, the Annie E. Casey foundation has published an excellent overview - download it here.
- Our Kids Count Data Book had a great essay, written by our Policy Analyst Liz Fraser, on how two-generation programs can make a difference in Connecticut. You can download it here.
- Two looks at the state budget: lawmakers looking where to cut, including contracts and municipal aid.
- America´s insidious eviction program: a look at the housing crisis, in a harrowing new book.
- Wage inequality keeps rising - and workers at the top keep reaping almost all the benefits of economic growth.
- Why aren´t remedial college classes taught by the best teachers? A great overview at the Atlantic.
- Report: paid family leave would cost .5% of all workers wages. A great overview of the paid family leave bill, at the Courant.
Governor Malloy has invited the Democratic and Republican Leadership to meet about a predicted revenue shortfall, but apparently the only options to be discussed are more cuts. We call on the Governor and the legislature to invite fairness to the table by examining ways to achieve a fairer and more efficient revenue system.
Addressing revenue shortfalls with only more cuts is not fair. Continued cuts will negatively affect all of Connecticut’s families and children who need essential services, people with disabilities and the elderly who need caring services, schools that need good teachers, and communities that need public safety. If our revenue projections are off, it is certainly not because the richest half a percent among us are struggling, or because our largest and most profitable businesses can’t afford to pay their share. Let’s seek additional contributions from
those very fortunate few who have ability and means to pay.
We all want a government that works well and programs that provide the essential public structures upon which our economy and communities depend such as clean air and water, good schools, public safety and care for our most vulnerable. We are the richest state in the union, and yet for decades we have tolerated waiting lists in some of our most basic public services, and inadequate investments in our futures. Indeed, over the years, these programs have already
sustained hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts.
When we miss our revenue forecasts by less than 1% -- as the Administration is indicating here – the first place we look should not be these important programs. Instead, we should look first at addressing a system where working and middle class families pay almost twice the effective rate in state and local taxes than the richest among us do, and we should ask those richest to pay a little more. And such principles of fairness should apply not just to individual taxes, but to
business taxes as well. Our revenue structure should ask our largest and most profitable businesses to pay their fair share, and we should do so in way that is fair to small businesses and good for our economy.
More cuts mean still more pain for all of us, and threaten the futures of our families and our communities. Let’s not leave fairness off the table. There are better choices.
Better Choices is a statewide coalition working to help lawmakers make smarter decisions about the state’s imbalanced revenue system. Members include nonprofit providers, labor, community, faith, environment, and advocacy organizations.
As you know, the Governor is looking for changes in the state budget during the special session. Better Choices for Connecticut has released a statement today in response, asking for a budget that protects critical services, invests in education, is not balanced on the backs of the poor and does not increase inequality.
You can find the full statement below, or you can download it as a PDF here.
Modifications to the New State Budget
A Statement of Better Choices for Connecticut
We all want a budget that:
In the budget that was passed by the General Assembly, our lawmakers took steps to address this year's budget challenge by refusing to ask the most from those with the least. Instead of cutting state support for vulnerable children, families, and communities, our elected officials chose to fund essential services by making our revenue system more equitable and progressive.
Once again, following outcry from a few of our state's largest corporations, we must remind our elected officials to make better choices. While these corporations claim that Connecticut's business tax burden is too high, a study by the Ernst and Young for the Council on State Taxation found that Connecticut businesses face the second lowest state and local tax burden in the nation.
While these few corporations talk about taking a more "balanced" approach to Connecticut's budget issues, they do not really mean balanced: they mean more slanted in favor of large corporations and the rich at the expense of working families.
The enacted budget makes progress towards accomplishing these things by investing in infrastructure, beginning property tax reform, and protecting many critical services -- although it already includes hundreds of millions in cuts. If any "tweaking" is done on the revenue side of the budget, any revenue lost should be replaced by alternate revenue sources from those most able to pay. The members of Better Choices for Connecticut urge our legislature to protect middle class and working families. Not a single dollar more in cuts should be added in the implementer session.
One final note: as we said on Friday´s e-mail, we need to actively tell legislators that we can not have any more cuts. More info on who to call and talking points here.
There has been a lot of talk after this year´s budget on how rotten our state is, how bad things are and how everyone seems to be looking for the exits. Here are CAHS we are not shy to point out many of the things that Connecticut does horribly, horribly wrong (from income inequality to regressive taxes, and don´t let me get started on how dreadful Metro-North is), but this whole "our state is terrible" thing needs to stop. Not just because people both inside and outside Connecticut are starting to believe it, but because it is flatly not true.
Connecticut is actually a really nice place to live, and there is plenty of data to back that up. Let´s go over this.
- Connecticut is one of the safest states in the country. The homicide rate is about half the national average, and dropping rapidly. We are close to the bottom in violent crime rates, and in the top-10 in lowest overall crime. Scary headlines aside, this is a very safe, very pleasant place to live in.
- Taxes are actually fairly low, considering how wealthy the state is. Bill Cibes already wrote about how low business taxes actually are, but this extends also to other taxes. State and local taxes as share of personal income is just 16,7%, compared to the 18.7% national average. Connecticut had the 6th lowest burden in 2012; even with recent tax increases, our rank has barely bulged.
- Connecticut schools are stellar. Only Massachusetts has better test scores; even compared with other countries, our schools fare better than students in places like France, Denmark or Ireland.
- Health-wise, Connecticut has the 3rd highest life expectancy. In most health indicators (obesity, smoking, low birth weight, diabetes) we are at the top or close to the top of the pack.
- Of course, the state is still one of the wealthiest in the country, and one of the wealthiest places on earth. Income mobility is well above the national average, as well, meaning that we have better, stronger ladders to reach the middle class.
- If we take all into account (income, health, education, crime, economy) we are arguably the best state by some accounts.
And all this without having to mention how pretty the state is, how pleasant our towns are, how good New Haven pizza is and how nice and civilized life is here.
Sure, Connecticut has problems. The weather can be pretty dreadful sometimes. Housing is incredibly expensive. Income inequality is a huge issue. Some of our cities and towns are not sharing much of our prosperity. Our roads have way too many potholes. There are many things we need to work on. We have our share of problems and issues.
But in both relative and absolute terms, no matter where you look, Connecticut is a great place to live. Crime is low, taxes are reasonable, health care is great, education is fantastic, opportunity still abounds, and we have the best pizza. No matter how much we whine and complaint about, we should not forget that.
CAHS is is looking for a new Program Director!
If you want to join us to advance CAHS’ mission to reduce poverty and build family economic security, we have an opening for you. The Program Director will be managing, growing, and evaluating our community-based programs; the job requires cultivating partnerships throughout Connecticut.
We are looking for someone creative, that can help us fund and bring to scale financial capability programs that show promise and demonstrate effectiveness, including access to benefits, free tax preparation, financial education and coaching, and asset-building. The Program Director also works collaboratively with the Policy and Research Directors to mutually reinforce and support CAHS’s Family Economic Success (FES) mission.
You can find the full details and how to apply for the position here. Send your resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to apply. Full details on the job posting after the jump.
Title: Program Director
Employment Status: Full-Time
Reports to: Executive Director
Supervises: Program Staff (tax prep, financial education, financial coaching, volunteer coordinators; VISTAs)
Summary: Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS) seeks a Program Director to advance CAHS’ mission to reduce poverty and build family economic security by managing, growing, and evaluating our community-based programs. The Program Director cultivates partnerships throughout Connecticut to fund and bring to scale financial capability programs that show promise and demonstrate effectiveness, including access to benefits, free tax preparation, financial education and coaching, and asset-building. The Program Director also works collaboratively with the Policy and Research Directors to mutually reinforce and support CAHS’s Family Economic Success (FES) mission.
Duties and Responsibilities:
- Oversee and support existing programs, including Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), access to benefits, CT Money School, and Financial Coaching, and build programs to empower low-income people to achieve financial stability.
- Maintain a results-based culture in which information that demonstrates the effectiveness of our programs is collected, maintained, and communicated using standardized tools.
- Hire, train, and manage program staff with diverse skills and backgrounds.
- Support the professional development of program staff through daily support and expanded training, workshop, and conference attendance.
- Establish and maintain relationships with social service and community providers across the state.
- Seek and secure funding (grant applications and prospect research and cultivation) to maintain and expand our FES programs.
- Maintain positive relationships with funders, including progress and outcomes reports, and periodic meetings.
- Outreach to expand the awareness and presence of programs by coordinating the distribution of informational materials via media, social media, and community provider networks, in concert with other CAHS staff.
- Support internal communications among staff and build positive organizational culture.
- Develop and maintain relationships with CAHS Board members on program issues, including help coordinating board committees.
- Attend and present at local, regional, statewide, and national meetings and conferences, representing CAHS as a leader among state FES program coordinators and operators.
- Work with CAHS staff as a team member to build policy-informed programs and program-informed policy.
- Bachelor’s Degree and a minimum of two years supervisory experience.
- Proven ability to organize and execute outreach and marketing plans.
- Strong organizational, leadership, and interpersonal skills: verbal and written communication skills (including public speaking), ability to manage competing priorities and work under deadlines; ability to integrate CAHS mission into projects and communicate their importance.
- Experience working with people from a variety of cultural and economic backgrounds and at different organizational levels.
- Ability to manage and motivate multiple staff, and collaborate with and inspire stakeholders.
- Computer literate with spreadsheets, database programs, and presentation software; detail-oriented.
- Grasp of complex program regulations and ability to effectively communicate them to staff and service provider partners.
- Knowledge of funding landscape in Connecticut (e.g., private, corporate, federal, and foundations). Experience writing and managing grants required; experience with federal grants helpful.
- Master’s degree in a related field (social work, public administration, human services, etc.).
- Experience in programs related to the economic stability of lower-income households.
- Community organizing, and/or other social service experience helpful.
- Experience providing technical assistance to nonprofit groups, and/or with community organizing, extremely helpful.
- Program evaluation experience or training helpful. Results Based Accountability exposure a plus.
- Creative and energetic problem solver.
- Friendly, flexible, confident and assertive combined with a sense of humor.
Compensation & Benefits:
- Competitive salary and benefits, including health and dental insurance, mileage reimbursement, retirement plan, life insurance.
How to apply
Please send cover letter, current resume, and a writing sample, to Resumes@cahs.org
110 Bartholomew Avenue, Suite 4030, Hartford, Connecticut, 06106
Low income workers often need help to make ends meet. As we have discussed in previous articles, many Connecticut families that have one or two adults working full time have wages that still leave them under or close the poverty line. Even with recent increases in the minimum wage, many jobs in the state just do not pay well enough for a family to become self-sufficient.
State policy thankfully tries to address it by offering low income and poor households a slew of public benefits. These benefits are often what is keeping these families afloat and enabling them to make ends meet - without Husky, Medicaid, SNAP and other public programs these low wage workers would struggle even more.
These benefits, however, have a real fiscal impact on public finances. As many companies and corporations pay their employees wages that are barely enough to make them self sufficient. Daniel Kennedy, Stan McMillen and Louise Simmons, three PhD researchers, have produced a detailed analysis on the gradual increase of low income jobs in the state, and how job creation in the past decade has mainly happened in low-pay occupations, with more and more workers only having access to positions that do not pay enough to make ends meet. More than half of the new jobs created in the state since 2010 are at the bottom 25th percentile, wages wise, meaning that most of job creation are on low-paying, barely making ends meet positions. Hourly earnings have barely increased in the state since the recession ended; nationwide, they have increased 8%.
This is bad for the families in these jobs, and also for the state budget: according to their estimates, Connecticut spends $486 million a year paying for health insurance and income supports to families that are employed full time.
You can download the full report here.