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e : 19 April 2007 • 4:58AM -0400

[Enotes] CT Voices' April 18 E-Notes
by Michael Sullivan


Connecticut Voices for Children
April 18, 2007

In this issue of E-Notes, you'll find:

*  Coping with the Cap: A Primer on Connecticut's State Spending Cap and Its
*  Giving Families a Chance: Necessary Reforms for the Adequate
Representation of Connecticut's Children and Families in Child Abuse and
Neglect Cases

*  The Education Budget in Context: An Analysis of the Governor's Proposed
FY 08 Budget
*  Education Finance and the Education Cost Sharing Formula in Brief
*  Addressing Connecticut's Educational Divides: The Key to Success in the
Global Economy

*  Building Family Economic Security
*  Economic Recovery? A Quick Glance at Connecticut's Working Families in

*  President's 2008 Budget Proposes Deep Cuts That Shift Costs onto

*  The HUSKY Program Budget in Context: An Analysis of the Governor's
Proposed FY 08 Budget

*  It's Time to Put Connecticut's Fiscal House in Order
*  Toward a Reliable, Equitable, Transparent and Accountable Revenue System
*  The Spending Cap Needs Some Repair
*  The Estate Tax: An Important Source of Revenue That Makes Connecticut's
Tax System Fairer





1.  Coping with the Cap: A Primer on Connecticut's State Spending Cap and
Its Impacts

This overview of Connecticut's state budget spending cap, considered to be
one of the more restrictive in the nation, discusses the cap's sixteen year
history and its various impacts on state spending and budget process.  

The report finds that that cap's definition of personal income growth (a
lagged five-year average) assures that as the economy recovers from a
recession, allowable state spending will always lag growth in the economy.
The cap's budget base definition assures that spending cuts made in a
recession will irrevocably reduce the budget base for subsequent years.
Together, the definitions ensure that public investment will ratchet down as
a share of the economy with each successive recession and, thereby, over
time jeopardize our continued competitiveness and quality of life. The
report shows how this reduction in public investment has, in fact occurred,
and the ways in which it poses great risk to our state.

The report also discusses how frequently the cap has been exceeded, and also
the various ways the spending cap has been circumvented over the past
sixteen years (e.g., revenue intercepts/special non-lapsing funds, tax
expenditures, bonding, transfers of lapsed funds).  It shows how these
budget techniques have reduced budget transparency and accountability and,
in some cases, also result in greater long-term costs to the state.  

Recommendations for reforming the cap to assure a closer fit between growth
in state spending and growth in the economy are discussed and include:
    * Re-defining "growth in personal income" to use a more current and
comprehensive measure of personal income growth;
    * Re-defining "general budget expenditures" as the amount of spending
allowed under the cap or, minimally, the total amount actually spent in a
given year, including surplus funds and transferred lapse funds used for
on-going purposes;
    * Excluding the first year of new federal funds from the cap, but then
adding them to the budget base.

2. Giving Families a Chance: Necessary Reforms for the Adequate
Representation of Connecticut's Children and Families in Child Abuse and
Neglect Cases

This report, researched and written by three Yale Law students for CT Voices
for Children, examines - through a comprehensive review of state laws and
interviews - the manner in which children and youth are being represented in
child abuse and neglect proceedings in Connecticut and in other states
around the country.  It finds that the current model of legal representation
for Connecticut children and parents in abuse and neglect proceedings -
independent contract attorneys paid a per case fee - does not provide
constitutionally-adequate representation. High caseloads, low payments, and
limited time spent on these cases result in too many attorneys providing
substandard and inadequate representation to their child and parent clients.

Evidence from other states indicates that providing legal representation
through a public agency or nonprofit legal services provider (rather than
Connecticut's current model of contracts with individual attorneys) leads to
higher quality services as attorneys are more specialized and better trained
and supervised.  

Evidence also shows that Connecticut's method of paying independent contract
attorneys is deeply flawed. Connecticut currently provides a flat fee of
$500 for the first thirty hours of work on a case (recently increased from
$350).  Flat fees provide a disincentive to spend adequate time on
representation.  Implementing an hourly billing system and increasing
compensation also is critical to providing adequate representation for
children and families and ensuring accountability.  

Connecticut had no formal training requirements and standards of practice
for attorneys until recently, and provided little oversight and supervision
until the creation of the Commission on Child Protection and its appointment
of the Chief Child Protection Attorney last year.  The report shows that
improving training and qualification requirements and assuring better
monitoring of the quality of representation are essential for improving
attorney performance.

Program models from New York and Washington State are highlighted in this
report, as they show that effective representation reduces the length of
time children spend in foster care, increase reunifications, reduce repeat
referrals, and - as a result - result in cost savings to the state that
exceed the costs of higher quality legal representation.


1.  The Education Budget in Context: An Analysis of the Governor's Proposed
FY 08 Budget

The Governor's FY08 budget proposes a significant increase in Education Cost
Sharing.  While this increase is needed, there remain many concerns about
how the formula that distributes these funds is to be changed.  The Governor
proposes increase in the foundation level, which has been frozen for years.
However, the increase would be phased in over five years, which means that
the foundation five years from now (in 2012) would only be at the level that
it should be now (in 2007), had the foundation not been frozen.  

While moving in the right direction with a significant funding increase for
need-based scholarship aid, the Governor's proposed investment in higher
education does not reflect the same commitment as to K-12 Education. State
funding for UCONN and the CT State Universities under the proposed budget is
less than their current services needs. The proposed increases do not make
up for funding cuts made in the last recession, escalating tuition costs for
higher education, and the system's burgeoning enrollment.

2.  Education Finance and the Education Cost Sharing Formula in Brief

The Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant is the largest state funding program
for K-12 education in Connecticut.  The ECS formula, the tool used to
allocate ECS grant funds across school districts, equalizes spending by
targeting more money to poorer districts, and seeks to improve educational
equity by adjusting for differences among school districts in terms of
student need and district wealth.  This brief provides an overview of the
formula, how it is calculated, and problems with the measures used to
calculate state aid.  For instance, the "foundation" has been frozen at an
insufficiently low amount by statute.

3.  Addressing Connecticut's Educational Divides: The Key to Success in the
Global Economy

Connecticut's educational divides and the increasing costs of higher
education pose threats to the state's economic competitiveness.  For
example, students in the lowest income school districts are more than 1.5
times less likely to attend preschool, and 15 times more likely to drop out
of school.  The increasing costs of higher education play a role in the
out-migration of young people from the state - in the 1990s, Connecticut
cohort of young adults declined more than in any other state in this period.


1.  Building Family Economic Security

This fact sheet outlines some of the economic security issues affecting many
Connecticut families, including energy, housing, wages, pay equity, and
family assets. During the past 15 years, Connecticut's middle- and low-wage
families have been losing economic ground. The state's lowest-income
families experienced the nation's largest drop in inflation-adjusted income
between 1991 and 2002.  The state's lowest-wage earnings made less in 2005
than they did in 1990 (adjusting for inflation).  The fact sheet briefly
describes some suggested proven investments in the human capital of the

2.  Economic Recovery? A Quick Glance at Connecticut's Working Families in

Despite three years of economic recovery in Connecticut, a larger share of
the state's residents are living in poverty, have no health insurance, and,
on average, have declining household incomes.  Connecticut's workers are not
seeing the benefits of economic growth in their paychecks.  From 1997 to
2005, growth in productivity (a measure of the overall performance of the
economy) was more than double the growth in Connecticut's median wages.


1.  President's 2008 Budget Proposes Deep Cuts That Shift Costs onto

President Bush's proposed 2008 federal budget would make deep cuts in
funding to Connecticut that would weaken a broad range of government
services.  At the same time, it would extend tax breaks that provide
windfall gains to only the very wealthy.  For example, his proposed cuts to
the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program would mean that 11,900 state
residents would go without needed help managing skyrocketing energy costs.
Meanwhile, a taxpayer with a million dollars in income would receive
$162,000 in tax cuts in 2012 alone.


1.  The HUSKY Program Budget in Context: An Analysis of the Governor's
Proposed FY 08 Budget

The Governor's proposed FY 08 budget does not invest enough in proven
strategies to enroll new families in the HUSKY program and retain coverage
for families already enrolled.   The proposed premium assistance initiative
is not likely to help many low- and moderate-income families or provide
significant cost savings for the state.  The experience of other states
suggests that the administrative costs of such a program, and the expenses
of subsidizing employer-sponsored health plans will be substantial.  The
Governor has also proposed narrowing the definition of "medically necessary
services," raising concerns about limiting access to needed care for
vulnerable children and adults on HUSKY A and fee-for-service Medicaid.


1.  It's Time to Put Connecticut's Fiscal House in Order

This brief suggests ways that Connecticut can avoid past fiscal mistakes by
addressing the state budget's reliance on one-time revenues, the structural
deficit, unaffordable tax cuts, under-funding of essential programs, and
increasing debt. These problems will contribute to growing budget deficits.
At the same time, Connecticut's current budget is under-funded in many ways.
For example, the state's share of K-12 education funding has declined from
46% in 1990 to 38%.

2.  Toward a Reliable, Equitable, Transparent and Accountable Revenue System

Connecticut's state revenue system can become more reliable, fair, and
accountable through such measures as a more progressive personal income tax,
a state earned income tax credit, preserving the combined gift/estate tax,
reducing our dependence on local property taxes, and improving disclosure of
corporate tax credits and exemptions.  Projected revenue growth is not
keeping pace with growth in the cost of maintaining current state services
in part because our tax code has become outmoded.  Unless state revenues are
increased, spending cuts will be required and increased investments in areas
such as education and health care will not be possible.

3.  The Spending Cap Needs Some Repair

This issue brief outlines problems with the state's spending cap, considered
to be one of the most restrictive in the nation.  It also offers
recommendations for repairing the cap's rules to better match growth in
state spending with growth in the economy.

4.  The Estate Tax: An Important Source of Revenue That Makes Connecticut's
Tax System Fairer

The Connecticut estate tax affects only a small portion of Connecticut
families. However, it generates considerable revenue for the state and helps
to reduce the overall regressivity of total state and local taxes.  The
state's wealthiest residents pay a smaller share of their income in state
and local taxes (4.4%) than middle-income (9.5%) and low-income residents
(10%).  The estate tax is one of Connecticut's few progressive taxes.


CT Voices has expanded our list of legislative testimony on our Web site.
Recent testimony on HUSKY, education, early care, juvenile justice reform,
legal representation for children and youth in juvenile matters, the income
tax, and many other issues is now available online.  Please check for
updates as the legislative session continues.


Connecticut Voices for Children is seeking a well-qualified and enthusiastic
person to fill a full-time two-year policy Fellowship. This is an
entry-level policy position at CT Voices that is specifically designed for
persons who have graduated from college within the last two years and who
are interested in doing state-level policy work before entering graduate

Candidates must have at least a Bachelor's degree, excellent research,
writing and presentation skills, strong interpersonal skills and initiative,
and a passion to work on the full range of issues that affect children and
their families. Quantitative skills and experience with data analysis
preferred. Experience in policy research and analysis, and skill with
spreadsheets a plus. The position begins late summer 2007.  Interested
persons must apply by Friday, June 1, 2007.

More detail on the position and how to apply are on the CT Voices Web site.


The next Covering Kids & Families Quarterly Meeting will take place on
Wednesday, May 2. We will meet at the CT Hospital Association at 110 Barnes
Rd in Wallingford. Registration and coffee will be from 8:30 to 9 am, with a
meeting from 9 am to 12 noon. These free educational meetings are open to
all organizations interested in helping eligible families to enroll in

Tentative agenda items include:
    * HUSKY Outreach Project
    * Citizenship documentation policies & pilot
    * Immigrant sponsor deeming and recovery
    * HUSKY B regulations
    * State & federal legislative proposals

The agenda and RSVP form are on the CT Voices Web site.

Connecticut Voices for Children
33 Whitney Ave
New Haven CT 06511
(203) 498-4240

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