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Public Policy Update: June 11, 2015

2015 Legislative Session ends, but lawmakers head into overtime

 

On the last day of the 2015 Legislative Session, the Connecticut House and Senate passed a tax and spending plan for the next two fiscal years. The new $40.3 billion budget both sustains and offers new resources for education and supportive programs critical to residents in our region and increases income taxes and a wide variety of other taxes on corporations, goods and services.

The budget includes an additional $23.5 million in new funding for public school districts through the state’s Education Cost Sharing grant with East Hartford, Hartford and West Hartford seeing increases between nearly $750,000 and $1.7 million.

Unfortunately, two grants that help the state’s lowest-performing schools, known as the Commissioner’s Network, will decrease. The budget decreases funding for Commissioner’s Network schools  by $4.7 million, a 27 percent reduction for the 2015-16 school year. The budget also reduces the amount of funding for extended school day and summer program opportunities at the state’s Priority School Districts by $3.6 million, which amounts to a 7 percent decrease in the state budget for these schools and $3.6 million less.  In our region, these cuts impact school districts in Bloomfield, East Hartford, East Windsor, Hartford, Manchester, Vernon, Windsor and Windsor Locks. The budget also reduces proposed spending on preschool expansion from $10 million to $2.8 million next year.

Key initiatives actively supported by the Hartford Foundation, including programs to better support English language learners and their families, and the creation of a two-generational school readiness and workforce development pilot program, will be taken up during the special session.  Hartford Foundation staff will continue to reach out to members of the legislature, the administration and our partners to encourage and monitor the progress of these proposals to promote opportunities that are informed by, and responsive to, the experiences of residents and community based providers in our region.

While the budget was passed, legislation with the language required to implement the tax and spending plan, known as the “implementer bill” was not called before the June 3rd deadline. The General Assembly will return to hold a “special session” before the end of June to make decisions about bills not acted upon by the close of the regular session.

Over the next few weeks, we will communicate with our many stakeholders to understand how the new budget and legislation signed by the Governor impacts our specific goal to ensure that every child in our region is ready to learn and succeed in school and life.  We will also be looking at how our public policy activity can support the wide range of supports and services necessary to ensure all of our residents have greater access to opportunity.

For updates on the upcoming special session, especially the impact of the budget implementer bill, check out the following resources:

  • CT Mirror: This online state policy news service provides extensive coverage and analysis of the state budget and revenue package and is widely considered the most detailed and reliable source for coverage on the General Assembly. As details of the proposed budget implementer emerge, this site will most likely have the most up-to-date and accurate information.
  • Connecticut Association of Human Services (CAHS): CAHS recently released a synopsis of the 2015 State Budget and Legislative Session highlighting both positive and negative impacts on policies and programs that support some of our state’s most vulnerable residents.
  • Connecticut Voices for Children (CT Voices): Once the legislature completes its work, CT Voices will provide a detailed report on the impact of the state budget and revenue package for Connecticut’s children and their families.

 


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