Slow Going

As mid-August approaches Connecticut still has no budget in place for the next two years. And there are few signs that is changing any time soon.

The issue of the moment is a proposal by some Democrats to raise or expand application of the state sales tax as a means to increase revenue. As expected, the idea is meeting with resistance from Republicans and some special interests.

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Budget Next

The state Senate gave final legislative approval Monday to a controversial union concession package crafted to save $1.6 billion.

Now legislative leaders must turn to the month late overall state budget which is $3.5 million out of balance.

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Crucial Vote

An important vote is scheduled Monday in the state Senate on whether to accept the terms of a concession package negotiated with state employee unions. Observers are watching the vote of three Democrats considered to be moderates. All three votes are needed to ensure an 18-18 tie that would presumably be broken in favor of the agreement by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman.

Republicans have been urging rejection. They claim additional savings can be achieved by changing the laws governing collective bargaining with public employees. Proponents of the deal say it will save the state $1.6 billion.

Squeeze Is On

The on-going state budget crisis at the capitol is putting a major financial squeeze on cities and towns and it is about to get worse.

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TOD Taking Hold?

There are growing signs many Connecticut communities are making investments in transit oriented development in an attempt to enhance property values and reduce traffic congestion.

The CT Mirror has a report.

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Providers Put $300M on Table

As Governor Malloy predicts the state may end up waiting until the fall before there is an agreement on the budget, providers of social services are arguing they can save the state $300 million.

A trade association for providers says its members can provide vital social services to Connecticut residents at lower cost if the legislature will make the policy decision to move in that direction. The claims by providers is backed up by previous research performed by CT21.

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Not on Board

According to the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, many of its members are not sure the union concession package approved by the state House of Representatives this week, is in the best long term interest of the state.

A vote in the Senate is expected next week. The package is meant to save nearly $1.6 billion, but Republicans think more can be saved by changing the laws that govern labor relations with state employees.

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Some Progress

Some progress is expected this week on the state budget stalemate.

Monday the House is expected to approve a $1.5 billion union concession package. Its future is uncertain in the evenly divided Senate.

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Defense Inflection

A CT21 policy brief released this year shows Connecticut is at an inflection point with regard to its defense industry. Demand is increasing, but the state is facing a challenge when it comes to supplying the workforce necessary to deliver the product.

CT21 Senior Fellow Loren Dealy Mahler explains the opportunities presented by the challenge.

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Parole Reform

In case you missed it, the PBS documentary series Frontline, featured a one hour report on Connecticut's efforts to reform its parole system.

The reforms, pushed by Governor Malloy, have been generally supported by CT21 on policy and economic grounds.

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Time Running Out - Again

With less than two weeks to go to the end of the month, Governor Malloy and the legislature are stuck in terms of reaching a budget agreement.

Results of a rank and file vote on union concessions is expected Tuesday. Union acceptance of a Malloy negotiated concessions agreement is a key to any final budget deal. Republicans are asking for more detail on the agreement even as they call for a fundamentally new approach to labor relations.

Governor Malloy is urging lawmakers to adopt a mini-budget, to cover a few weeks, if they can't come to agreement on a full budget. Malloy says without legislative guidance he is forced to administer state spending on his own, which inevitably leads to undesireable and potentially damaging spending cuts.

Defense Hiring

As CT21 pointed out in its most recent policy brief, Connecticut is facing a boom in the defense industry. As a result, there is a growing demand for skilled workers in the field.

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Mental Health Providers

Providers of mental health care in Connecticut are concerned that Medicaid cuts at the federal level and a growing budget crisis at the state level will combine to seriously reduce access to mental health services.

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Budget Update

With no deal in sight, legislative leaders say they will not vote on a new two-year budget on July 18 as previously planned.

In the meantime, Republicans are making a pitch to change the way state employee union contracts are negotiated in the future. In short, they want a completely new set of rules to take effect in 2022.

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Budget Gridlock Continues

There is still no sign of an agreement on a new state budget two weeks after the end of the last fiscal year.

Republicans offered their own version of a spending plan Tuesday and asked for a vote. One way to break a budget impasse is for legislative leadership to force votes on various budget plans until all sides begin to see where to compromise.

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Still Recovering

A new report says Connecticut is one of five states that still has not fully recovered from the recession that began in late 2008.

The news backs up an argument Governor Malloy has been making since last year as he tries to convince lawmakers the old rules can no longer apply to the state budget process.

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New Budget Process

In an article published in Hearst Connecticut newspapers, Robert Santy of Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Inc., says Connecticut needs to adopt a new budgeting process. Santy says the current approach obviously is not working and he argues that we should begin by setting priorities based on existing revenue.

Priority based budgeting is a concept CT21 has supported throughout its history.

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Providers Offer Cost Savings

Connecticut is among just a few states with no budget in place for the current fiscal year and there is little sign of movement toward agreement.

Meanwhile, providers of social services funded by the state are concerned about their clients and concerned that lawmakers continue to ignore their ideas for cost savings.

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Medicaid Costs Down

A new study finds Connecticut's Medicaid costs per patient have been dropping, but Medicare spending is up in our state.

The news comes as governors from across the country fight to maintain current Medicaid spending levels as Republicans in Congress seek to reform the national healthcare law.

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Aetna Sends Message

Aetna confirmed Thursday that it is moving its corporate headquarters to New York City and provided the exact address. The move was not unexpected and had been telegraphed weeks ago.

The company said its continued presence in Hartford will depend a lot on the state of the Connecticut economy and whether the legislature can produce something that looks like a sustainable path forward. Coming less than two years after the decision by General Electric to relocate its headquarters to Boston, the Aetna move is an undeniable signal from the state's business community that state government needs to change its approach.

Aetna also revealed details of economic incentives it received from the city and the state of New York, further confirming that bidding for jobs is a multi-state contest.

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Meanwhile, the state heads into the holiday weekend - and more importantly - the new fiscal year without a budget in place.

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All or Nothing?

The legislature will not vote on a new state budget this week, meaning Connecticut will roll into the new fiscal year on Saturday with no budget in place for the next two years.

There has been talk of a mini-budget that would cover 90 days, but the House Speaker is against the idea, apparently believing extending the deadline will only delay hard decisions.

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New Revenues

Some insiders are suggesting this year's special legislative session on the budget could extend past Labor Day.

All sides appear to be far apart. Governor Malloy is attempting to lead by pushing forward with his own budget plans absent one approved by the full legislature.

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Big Week

In Hartford and Washington major decisions are being made this week with the potential to dramatically impact Connecticut over the long term.

Beginning today(Monday) lawmakers in Hartford begin a final effort to assemble a two-year budget package with the hope of voting on it by the end of the week. Negotiations are taking place against a backdrop of a budget shortfall of as much as $5 billion. There is a reluctance to raise taxes and a reluctance to do anything that may be perceived as hurting the state's business climate, but there is also a realization that cutting the budget by $5 billion, over two years, is politically difficult. As is often the case, the most vulnerable citizens in the state face the biggest risk as decisions are being made.

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Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., the Senate is trying to vote before the July 4th recess on healthcare reform. The outcome of the debate could affect nearly every Connecticut resident on a personal level, but it may also have a strong affect on the state's economy which still includes thousands of insurance industry related jobs.

Manufacturing Improvements

Connecticut is facing a boom in defense manufacturing in the coming years, but a recent CT21 policy brief shows the state needs to do more to make sure the workforce can meet the expected need.

A new study shows some signs of improvement in the readiness of Connecticut's manufacturing workforce.

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