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2024 Legislative Session Commences, Fight Renews Over $150M in Ed Funding, Sen. Looney Calls for Adjusting Guardrails to Fund Higher Ed

2024 LEGISLATIVE SESSION COMMENCES

Gavel! Gavel! Gavel! The 2024 legislative session kicked off today, with a State of the State Address by Governor Ned Lamont. The governor began by acknowledging the two-year budget passed last session, which made investments in childcare, K-12 education, and more. However, he noted that the availability and affordability of housing has continued to be a considerable challenge in the state. 


He explained that his proposed budget would make the “biggest commitment to childcare in our history, an additional $90 million next year alone,” and on K-12, reflected that, “our teachers and paras need help, and our kids still need some catching up.” 


During his address, the Governor also applauded efforts by Attorney General William Tong and Senator Maroney to protect students from the potential harms of social media. And he celebrated Connecticut’s first-in-the-nation Baby Bonds program, which provides students born under HUSKY with $10,000+ after they turn 18. On Higher Education, Governor Lamont promised that his budget is “making our largest state grants ever to our state colleges and UConn.”


We’ll be watching to see how the details of his proposal and forthcoming negotiations bear out. For specifics on how our affiliate, ERN CT, thinks Connecticut can make education more equitable for students this year, see their 2024 policy agenda here.


FIGHT RENEWS OVER $150 MILLION IN EDUCATION FUNDING

Even before his State of the State speech today, Governor Lamont had announced a legislative proposal to make fee reductions that he hopes will encourage workers to seek employment in education, childcare and healthcare. Specifically, the Governor proposed eliminating the initial application fees for educator certificates, childcare licenses, registered nurse licenses, and practical nurse licenses. 


The Governor and Office of Policy Management Secretary Jeffrey Beckham have also discussed a plan to double a $50M increase in day care spending, which was approved in a budget last spring. As the Hartford Courant explained on Thursday, the problem is that Lamont plans to cover these increases to the budget by diverting some of the $150M in K-12 education funding that was passed as a part of last year’s biennial budget.


The proposal comes as many public school districts are beginning to worry about impending cuts to their K-12 budgets. CT Insider notes that districts have been relying on federal relief funding for several years, and that they are anticipated to see a three percent fiscal cliff when the funding expires. School and State Finance Project, a nonpartisan policy organization focused on ensuring equitable education funding for all Connecticut students, is urging constituents to reach out to their legislators to reject Lamont's budget, writing: "With school districts grappling with disappearing federal aid, increased student needs and costs, and potential massive cuts to staff and programs, students, teachers, and families cannot afford a broken promise now." Indeed.


SENATOR LOONEY CALLS FOR ADJUSTING GUARDRAILS TO FUND HIGHER EDUCATION

On Monday, Alex Putterman at CT Insider had an important write-up on higher education. Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney argued that the legislature's fiscal guardrails—which include mandatory savings, spending caps, and borrowing caps—should be adjusted to reflect a great level of need in the areas of higher education, early childhood education, and social services. The Senator's comments were made at a news conference about the need for more funding for higher education. Professors at the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCUs) say budget cuts have already necessitated a reduction in services for students, even while tuition has increased. The Hartford Courant's Chris Keating notes that while liberal lawmakers say the guardrails have prevented "fully funding social programs," Republican  legislators and Governor Lamont want to keep the guardrails in place. 


Need to catch up on your “guardrails” reading? Keith Phaneuf at the CT Mirror is also currently running a three-part series about the impact of the fiscal guardrails on state reserves, debt, and funding for state programs. The series notes that—in spite of leading to wiping out billions in pension debt, increasing the rainy day fund, and tax cuts—the fiscal guardrails actually amount to "a de facto 'tax' on core programs, such as education, health care and social services."


OTHER MUST-READS

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