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Advocating for the “Children’s Budget”

Advocating for the “Children’s Budget”

The 2017-18 state budget process is under way, and the Liberty Bank Foundation staff had an opportunity to preview the issues and possible solutions for the “children’s budget” at the January 24 Annual Budget Forum, presented by Connecticut Voices for Children.

The “children’s budget” has declined from almost 33 percent of the general fund to 29.5 percent in 2016.

One of Liberty’s funding priorities is education that enables the state’s most vulnerable families and children to achieve economic success.  Programs like pre-K education and care, parent engagement, college and career preparation, and youth employment opportunities make it possible for low-income families to thrive in our state.   And many of the programs we support depend heavily on investment by state government.

Connecticut Voices representatives reported that since 2008, the “children’s budget” has declined from almost 33 percent of the general fund to 29.5 percent in 2016.  They expressed concern about the potential for further decline over the next two years.

The difficult truth is that in 2017-18, the state faces a $3 billion budget deficit, lower than projected revenue collections, and increasing demand for services.  Connecticut Voices presenters expressed support for what they termed  a “balanced” approach to achieving a sustainable budget, incorporating measures that would not just cut spending, but also add revenue.  Solutions discussed included:

  • Property tax reform that would match municipal education budgets with funding generated from a state property tax
  • Sales tax expansion to include services and internet sales
  • Stronger review and transparency for business tax breaks
  • Base budgeting for future services on current costs
  • Regionalization of the management and funding of school systems
  • Reexamination of the minimum wage

Governor Dannel Malloy and Ben Barnes, director of the state Office of Policy and Management, discussed the delicate balance between the need for state revenue and the equally important need to grow the state’s economy.  The Governor pointed out that Connecticut must compete with other states to retain and grow businesses, so revenue options that would place an added burden on businesses must be approached with caution.

State Comptroller Kevin Lembo noted that a plan is under consideration to address the state’s pension liability, which has ballooned in recent years.  If enacted, the plan could level out the amount of funding required for pensions over the long term—a major step forward in stabilizing the budget.

We came away from today’s meeting sobered by the magnitude of our state’s budget challenges, but also encouraged by the wealth of ideas presented with the goal of solving them, and the determination of everyone involved to ensure the wellbeing of our most vulnerable families and children.  We look forward to following the public discussion of the budget as it unfolds, and contributing to it where and as we may.  Toward that end, we encourage our nonprofit partners and all our fellow citizens to join the conversation and advocate for continued investment in our state’s most precious resource:  our children.