On June 7, 2017, Connecticut legislators wrapped up their session without passing a two-year budget. The failure to pass a budget or a provisional budget reflects a deeply divided Legislature with an 18-18 split in the Senate and a slight Democratic majority, 79-72, in the House. As lawmakers adjourned, Gov. Dannel Malloy chastised them for failing to break the deadlock and pass a budget.
A big sticking point is a deficit of $3.5 billion over the two-year budget cycle. Previously, the deficit was estimated at $5 billion but was reduced to $3.5 billion as a result of concessions negotiated with state labor unions that are slated to save $1.57 billion over the next two years. The deficit for FY18 is $1.6 billion.
Malloy has indicated that at least $116 million would be cut from three of the state’s major human services agencies—Social Services, Developmental Services and Mental Health and Addiction Services. The state’s hospitals could also be the victim of cuts. Malloy noted that state tax reimbursements of $35.6 million would, in turn, trigger $75.8 million in federal Medicaid funds, which could also be lost. His plan seeks to restore these funds.
One of the big challenges facing Malloy is getting the support of Connecticut municipalities to close the deficit. He has asked for the cooperation of municipal leaders to contribute to the teacher’s pension system, which is now financed by the state and the state’s teachers. Malloy also wants local leaders to help come up with a new formula for distributing a reduced amount of local aid to school districts. As if things weren’t bad enough, the capitol city of Hartford has declared bankruptcy and is looking for a state bailout.
Legislators have been advised they will be called into session during the week of Sept. 11 to address the stalemate on the budget. Solutions to help resolve this situation include new sources of revenue such as a hike in the sales tax. The current rate is 6.35%, which is the 12th highest in the U.S. The proposed increase would raise the tax to 6.99% which would be the second highest in the country. (California is the highest with a rate of 7.25 %.) Another source of revenue which has already received approval is a third casino proposed for East Windsor.
Legislation Passed, Signed Into Law
Workforce Development System
HB 5590 An Act Creating a Task Force to Improve the Workforce Development System in the State of Connecticut
Codifies the state’s existing longitudinal data system and governing board. Requires the state’s Labor Commissioner to develop a universal intake form for persons entering American Job Centers or Workforce Development Board facilities. The Commissioner uses the information from the standardized intake forms for an annual report to the General Assembly, including: the number of people using American Job Center or Workforce Development Board employment rates and average wages of persons who utilized those services; the number of people in various pathways; and the industry sectors in which completers find employment.
Separate Technical High School System
HB 7271 An Act Concerning the Establishment of a Technical High School System
Establishes the technical school system as an independent state agency, beginning July 2019.
Postsecondary Vocational Programs, Technical High School System
HB 7202 An Act Establishing a Division of Postsecondary Education Programs Within the Technical High School System
Classifies licensed practical nurse programs and aviation maintenance programs as “postsecondary education programs” to maintain students’ eligibility to for federal Pell Grants.
JR 100 Resolution Approving a State Constitutional Amendment to Protect Transportation Funds
Voters in the November 2018 election will decide whether to amend the state Constitution to ensure that money in the Special Transportation Fund be used solely for transportation-related costs–a transportation “lockbox.”
Third Tribal Casino
SB 957 An Act Concerning the Regulation of Gaming and the Authorization of a Casino Gaming Facility in the State
A third casino supported by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe was approved for East Windsor. This would be the first casino built on non-tribal land. MGM Resorts International, which has a casino under construction in Springfield, Mass., has issued a court challenge to the action taken by the Connecticut General Assembly.
Defendants Unable to Pay Bail
HB 7044 An Act Concerning Pretrial Justice Reform
Reduces the chance some defendants will be jailed solely over their inability to afford bail.
HB 6695 An Act Protecting Youth From Conversion Therapy
Bans conversion therapy for changing the sexual orientation of minors—a discredited practice blamed for depression and teen suicide.
Abused and Neglected Children
SB 895 An Act Concerning the Department of Children and Families’ Standards and Reporting Requirements
Improves investigating tools related to allegations of abused and neglected children. Requires Department of Children and Families to establish protocols for proper visitation and oversight by caseworkers.
Abused and Neglected Children in Foster Care
HB 6741 An Act Concerning the Right of Counsel to Access Records in Certain Abuse and Neglect Proceedings
Grants attorneys immediate access to records of abused and/or neglected children in the foster care system.
Requirements for Preschool Staff
SB 912 An Act Concerning Revisions to the Staff Qualifications Requirement for Early Childhood Educators
Requires an associate degree in early childhood education to be employed at state-funded preschool programs.
SB 1026 An Act Concerning Revisions to the High School Graduation Requirements
Delays and revises the requirements set to go into effect with the freshman fall class that would have required additional credits in math, science and foreign language, senior project and passing exams in algebra, geometry, biology, American History and English to graduate as ordered by Superior Court judge. The legislation does away with exit exams and a senior project while expanding the description of courses needed for students to graduate.
Legislation That Failed
SB 17 An Act Assisting Students Without Legal Immigration Status With the Cost of College
Would include undocumented students as eligible for student financial aid.
SB 971 An Act Concerning the Promotion of Transfer and Articulation Agreements
Streamlines the process for transferring credits from community colleges to state universities, resolves the lost transfer credit
HJ 37 Resolution Proposing a State Constitutional Amendment to Provide for Legislation by Direct Initiative and Referendum
Requires a change in the state constitution, which could take several years unless the General Assembly votes by supermajority to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Approved by House; Senate failed to vote on this.
SB 972 An Act Concerning Tuition Integrity at For-Profit Institutions of Higher Education
Limits what for-profit colleges can spend on advertising to recruit students while putting a cap on federal financial aid spent on non-instructional costs.
HB 797 An Act Concerning the Licensing of New and Used Cars Dealers
Authorizes the commissioner of motor vehicles to issue a new or used car dealer’s license to an electric vehicle manufacturer.
SB 586 An Act Expanding Mandated Health Benefits for Women, Children and Adolescents.
Preserves the Affordable Care Act’s protection for women and children in Connecticut should the ACA law be repealed. Failed in House; passed in Senate.
K-12 and Higher Education In Limbo Without a State Budget
On Aug. 15, school superintendents, teachers, administrators, members of school boards and parents pleaded with Malloy and members of the Connecticut General Assembly to produce a budget before the school year starts. The failure to produce a budget has forced school districts to cut dozens of positions and put hundreds more on hold.
Higher Education Funding
Malloy proposed cutting an additional $62.2 million for the University of Connecticut, the UConn Health Center, Connecticut state colleges and universities. Both the UConn and the Board of Regents for Higher Education are expected to wait on setting final budgets until the size of the cuts are known.
Carolyn Morwick directs government and community relations at NEBHE and is former director of the Caucus of New England State Legislatures. Visit here for summaries of the legislative sessions in other New England states.