In today's email:
- The need for new revenue
- The impact of cost-sharing for HUSKY parents
- Bills moving forward
- Chart of the week – Who's really leaving Connecticut?
- What is a “Special Session”?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Steady Jobs, With Pay and Hours That Are Anything But, New York Times.
- America Is a World Leader in Health Inequality, Washington Post. The piece talks about a study by Joachim Hero, a former CT Voices Policy Fellow.
- House Republican Health Bill Would Effectively End ACA Medicaid Expansion, from CBPP.
- Also from the CBPP, People Losing Medicaid Under House Republican Bill Would Face High Barriers to Coverage.
- Obamacare Didn’t Destroy Insurance Markets, but It Also Didn’t Fix Them, New York Times.
- Trouble in America’s Country Club, Slate.