State budget 'framework' in place, but many groups likely to be disappointed
Connecticut lawmakers have reached the “general framework” for a new two-year budget, House Speaker Matt Ritter said Wednesday. The budget includes a historic tax cut, but many groups are likely to walk away disappointed.
That includes around 1,700 striking caregivers at group homes across the state, including New Life in Bridgeport.
“Most of us have to work two and three jobs, and it's very frustrating,” said longtime employee Carol Thomas. “It's very hard.”
Group homes get most of their money from the state budget. Striking workers want a bigger share of it.
“We're directing this to the governor, so he can see that we're serious,” said fellow worker Charles Nixon.
COMPETITION FOR DOLLARS
As group home workers went on strike, hundreds of nonprofit workers also demanded more funding at the state Capitol. They cover dozens of critical services, like mental health and addiction services, that the state no longer provides.
“We have waiting lists for months for individuals and families who need our services now,” Heather Latorra, with Marrakech Inc., told the crowd.
Top lawmakers said nonprofits will get about 3% more money for each of the next two years. That's less than half of what they asked for.
Striking workers will get more too – but not as much as they want, either.
“One of the things we have to look at is long-term sustainability,” said state Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford), the top Republican in the Connecticut House. “This is an ongoing expense that Connecticut is going to incur.”
Candelora expressed frustration that group home workers chose to hit the picket lines.
“Going on strike has additional financial impacts to the state,” he told reporters. “I'm disappointed they couldn't wait another week to see if we could get there.”
DOESN’T CT HAVE A SURPLUS?
Connecticut has a record surplus, so why is money so tight? Because of strict spending caps enacted in 2017, most of that extra money will help pay off decades of pension debt. Much of what's left is paying for a major tax cut.
Lawmakers from both parties also want to send more funding to schools and public colleges, although Ritter said college funding will come with fiscal accountability measures attached.
“We're living within our means and being sustainable,” said Ritter. “The problem six, seven, eight years ago was you'd give someone a lot of money and you'd cut it back the next year.”
“WE CAN’T PAY OUR BILLS”
Workers argue that Connecticut’s surplus is better spent on people, not pensions.
“Some of us have faced evictions,” said Thomas. “We can't pay our bills.”
The workers’ union, SEIU Local 1199NE, said the strike will go on indefinitely.
Ritter said a budget vote could happen by late next week. Nonpartisan budget analysts are “crunching the numbers now” to make sure they add up.