Photo of Senator Kushner.

State Senator

Julie Kushner

Representing Bethel, Danbury, New Fairfield, Sherman

Investing In Education, Towns, and Nonprofits – With A Strong Connecticut Budget

Senate gives final, bipartisan approval to two-year state budget


HARTFORD – State Senator Julie Kushner (D-Danbury) joined her colleagues in the state Senate to pass a bipartisan, two-year Democratic state budget that invests in education, cities and towns, and nonprofit social service providers while not raising taxes, remaining well under the state spending cap, and putting an extra $1 billion toward paying off Connecticut's historic unfunded pension debt.  

The Senate voted 31-4 to pass House Bill 6689, the state biennial budget for July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2023. The budget, which had previously been approved by the House of Representatives, now heads to Governor Ned Lamont, who is expected to sign it into law.  

With a billion-dollar year-end budget surplus, its Rainy Day Fund at historic highs, our state bond rating at its highest level in two decades, and state income tax and federal revenues swelling, Connecticut is well-positioned this year to make major investments in education, town aid, social services, health care, justice-related initiatives and workforce development programs, all the while remaining under our statutory spending cap.

"I was happy to vote for this budget because it’s good for our community and for working families. It makes long-needed investments in Connecticut, especially for the local nonprofits that serve on the ground in our communities," said Sen. Kushner. "I am, however, disappointed. I think we could have done more. This is an extraordinary moment in history—as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic consequences -- working families and middle class families need fully funded schools, affordable health care, reduced prescription drug cost, and a stronger safety net."

The two-year General Fund budget totals $42.46 billion: $20.8 billion in FY 22, and $21.66 billion in FY 23. The budget including all nine special funds (i.e. the Special Transportation, Banking, Insurance, Workers' Compensation and other funds) totals $46.36 billion, which is a year-over-year 2.6% spending increase in FY 22 and a 3.9% spending increase in FY 23.  

Despite all of the state investments in a wide variety of necessary and popular public programs, the budget remains $22.2 million under the state-mandated sending cap in FY 22 and $35.7 million under the spending cap in FY 23, even while making an extra billion-dollar payment toward Connecticut's unfunded pension debt, which has built up over the past 70 years.  

The four towns in the 24th district will receive $59.645 million next year (Fiscal Year 22) and $62.223 million the year after for a total of $121.87 million. Every town in the district will see an increase in state funding with an increase of $5,073,935 next year and $7,653,057 the year after.  

The state budget relies on $2.28 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding over the biennium: $1.271 billion in FY 22, and $1.01 billion in FY 23; Connecticut received a total of $2.6 billion in ARPA funds, leaving about $400 million unallocated.  

Among the many investments this state budget makes, a number of local programs also benefitted:

Local Programs

  • Provides funding of $275,000 in FY 22 and $900,000 in FY 23 to establish an Open Choice pilot in Danbury and Norwalk.
  • $1 million to fund a new School Safety Center at Western Connecticut State University.
  • Danbury will receive $5 million more in education funding and $7.5 million more in municipal aid -– due to changes to increased PILOT funding and a change in the ECS formula. Bethel and New Fairfield also received increases in municipal aid and education aid rates are held stable.
  • $50,000 will support the TBICO Danbury Women's Employment Program.
  • An additional $20,000 to extend a study of air quality from potential pollution from the Cricket Valley power plant in Sherman and New Fairfield.
  • $75,000 each is given to the Friends of Bethel Public Library.
  • $75,000 to Danbury Youth Services.
  • $140,000 to the Danbury Police Athletic League.
  • $50,000 will support the educational resources of EdAdvance.
  • A $40,000 property tax credit is given to support Apex Community Care.

State-wide programs 

Fiscal Responsibility

  • This budget recognizes the structural and systemic inequities experienced by our major cities – many of which have over 50 percent of their property as non-taxable - and keeps our promises to municipalities by fully funding the Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILOT) formula that was championed by Senate President Martin Looney and passed earlier this session.  This budget will provide over $525 million in additional funds to Connecticut cities and towns over the next two years through a combination increased PILOT and Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grants.  
  • Because of Democratic fiscal policies, in 2020 Connecticut finished its fiscal year with a surplus and reached the 15% threshold in our Rainy Day Fund, allowing us for the first time in 75 years to make a bulk payment of $63 million toward our unfunded pension liability.  This fiscal prudence will also result in a budget volatility cap transfer of more than $1 billion at the end FY 21 to pay down our unfunded pension liability.  
  • The budget increases the state Earned Income Tax Credit for working poor people from the current 23% of the federal income tax to 30.5%. That tax credit change will provide an additional $40 million in income – $158 million overall – to nearly 195,000 Connecticut households.

Education

  • Education Cost Sharing Grant - This budget keeps our promises related to local education funding and maintains the current roll-out of the ECS formula providing cities and towns with additional $130 million over the next two years, while holding harmless towns that would have otherwise lost funds. It also provides additional funding to school systems with higher numbers of low-income students and English Language Learner students.  
  • Vocational-Agricultural Education - Provides funding to increase the state per-pupil grant for Vocational Agriculture schools by $1,000.  
  • Debt-Free Community College - Provides $14 million in FY 22 and $15 million in FY 23 to fully implement debt-free community college. This makes community college free and accessible to all students in Connecticut and leverages federal dollars brought in by additional student enrollment to help ensure the long-term success of our community college system. 

Nonprofits & Healthcare

  • Direct Support for Nonprofits - Provides $50 million in support from the FY 21 surplus to the non-profit providers of health and human services that contract with state agencies. In addition, it provides an additional $30 million in FY 22 and FY 23 to these agencies. With additional $30 million in FY 22 and FY 23 in federal funds. This budget is the first investment in over a decade, supporting nonprofits like Ability Beyond in Bethel.  
  • Increased Rates for Home Health, Nonprofits and Waiver Services Providers  
  • Increased the ratio of people providing direct care and social work services to residents in nursing homes
  • Statutory Increases for Nursing Homes, Intermediate Care Facilities & Boarding Homes
  • Provides funding to reflect the elimination of fees paid by families receiving Birth to Three services & expands coverage to children who turn age three on or after May 1, until the start of the school year. It also establishes a youth suicide prevention program providing certification in QPR Institute Gatekeeper Training for district health department employees and expands the DCF Careline to accommodate reports of child abuse or neglect made by text message.
  • Expansion of Husky- expands Medicaid to immigrant children under the age of 8; expands prenatal and postnatal care for immigrant women who don't have citizenship; expands postnatal care for women on Medicaid from 2 to 12 months post-birth; expands healthcare to people with Creates a Medicaid-type Experience for people with Husky A income eligibility from 160 percent Federal Poverty Level to 175 percent Federal Poverty Level through the Access Health Connecticut; provides funding to support Medicaid coverage for services provided by a licensed chiropractor and acupuncturist, as well as increased rates for podiatrists.
  • Provides funding of $2.1 million each year for Planned Parenthood to help restore their lost federal Title X grant support.

Justice & Equity

  • Community Reinvestment - Provides $14 million from the FY 21 surplus for community investment to fund a variety of initiatives focused on reducing violence and providing support for Connecticut’s cities.  
  • $34 million to provide assistance for out-of-pocket expenses for Essential Workers who had COVID-19.  
  • Cost-free communications for incarcerated persons  
  • Inmate Medical Services - Provides additional support to allow for an increase in staffing.
  •  $250,000 each year to qualified organizations to educate and assist workers to access existing rights under the State's Wage & Hour laws.
  • Consumer Contact Center for Unemployment Claims at the Department of Labor - Provides funding to continue the operations of the Consumer Contact Center through the end of the biennium.
  • Racial Equity in Public Health - Provides funding to establish the commission within legislative management
  • Supports Survivors of Domestic Violence – Provides funding for staff positions to implement new domestic violence laws and for a grant program to provide legal representation to applicants for restraining orders.

Support for the Tourism Fund & Statewide Marketing Campaign- The Tourism Fund, which supports statewide marketing campaigns as well as various arts and cultural programs, is funded solely by an occupancy tax on hotel stays, a revenue source that has decreased dramatically due to the impacts of the pandemic.  This provides funds of $15 million in immediate support for statewide marketing efforts in FY 21.