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Budget Advocacy. Advocacy 101 for community organizations September 13, 2005 Guest: John Clark, Office of State Comptroller. CT Health Policy Project www.cthealthpolicy.org. The basics. Budget reflects our priorities -- not speeches, not even laws

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budget advocacy

Budget Advocacy

Advocacy 101 for community organizations

September 13, 2005

Guest: John Clark, Office of State Comptroller

CT Health Policy Project


the basics
The basics
  • Budget reflects our priorities -- not speeches, not even laws
  • $15.3 billion in General Fund for this year
  • Growing 8.8% this year
  • State fiscal year – July 1 thru June 30 (FY 06 refers to 2005-2006 fiscal year)
  • Interest on the debt -- $1.7 billion this year, 11¢ of every state dollar
  • Total debt is $12.7 billion, about $3600 per resident, no. 1 in US in debt/capita
the budget
Where it goes

Medicaid 21%

(50% reimbursed by fed.s)

Education 20%

Debt service 11%

Health & Hospitals 9%

Corrections 9%

Where it comes from

Personal income tax 36%

Sales tax 22%

Federal funds 16%

Business taxes 8%

Licenses, fees 6%

Gambling 4%

Cigarettes 1.6%

Gas tax 3%

The budget
structure of the budget
Structure of the budget
  • Two parts – spending and revenue
  • Spending has two parts – appropriations and bonding (borrowing)
  • Technically a two year budget, but they make so many changes in the off years, it is really an annual process
  • Budget bill and implementers (the devil in the details)
  • Sections and line items not always rational or very descriptive
the players
The players
  • Governor
  • Legislative Leaders – Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, House and Senate Majority Leaders
  • Co-Chairs, Appropriations and Finance Committees
  • Appropriations Subcommittee Co-Chairs
  • Office of Policy & Management (OPM)
  • Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA)
  • Agency budget analysts, policymakers, legislative liaisons
  • Office of the State Comptroller
the process
The process
  • Essentially year round
  • In fall agencies send current services levels and “options” to OPM/Gov
  • Gov proposes her budget in Feb
  • Divided up to Finance and Approp.s, then to relevant subcommittees
  • Hearings by agency, committee meetings
  • Subcommittees to comm in Mar/Apr
  • Finance and Approp.s reconcile
  • Negotiate with Gov
  • Pass and budget, she signs – hopefully by the end of the session
  • And take a short breather before it all begins again
where to begin
Where to begin
  • Get your issue on the radar screen early and strong
  • Agency – see if they will include with their budget to OPM
  • Gov and OPM – try to get it into Gov’s proposal
  • Build political support early – regular lobbying
  • Testify? – hard to get above the noise, dangers of lumping in with other groups
  • Speak to Comm and Subcomm chairs to get it added to their budget
  • Work with OFA, thru friendly leg.s, on fiscal estimates
  • Generally same tips as for other advocacy
  • Prepare -- have your #s handy
  • Clear information – easy to read
  • Show your work, site sources (after clear info)
  • Build political support like any other issue – meetings w/ leg.s, calls, letters
  • Op-Eds and letter to editor very good ways to make your case
  • Work to keep fiscal estimates reasonable, have more back up than you think you’ll need
  • Be available, vigilant, keep in touch with friends in leg. so you can address issues that arise, your opponents won’t call you
  • You are in this for the long haul – even if you get the $$ this year (unlikely in first year), you will have to defend it in the future
  • Spending cap – “we can’t afford it”
    • They find ways around that for what they want
    • This is why they get the big money
  • “Find me the money somewhere else”
    • The divide-and-conquer trap, give up another program or find savings in your own to pay for it
    • When we have found them money (both savings and/or new money) they used it for other things anyway
  • We already tried that
    • They will say this even when they know it isn’t true
    • Give the reasons that either they didn’t, or this time will be different
    • Very few things work perfectly the first time
  • DO NOT be intimidated
  • The most important pieces of fiscal estimating you already have – reality and common sense
  • Most important part of effective fiscal estimates is making them understandable but solid
  • Most only involves arithmetic
  • Just take your time to look over data, check it with last year’s numbers, etc.
  • Persistence in getting data from government, FOI is a critical tool
  • Get help, if you need it, develop relationships, but also develop the capacity internally
  • Share with your champions, let them use it as they see fit (do not insist on credit, do not publish automatically, only as a deliberate plan)
spending cap
Spending Cap
  • 28th amendment to CT Constitution, was the price for passing an income tax
  • Limits state spending increase to avg. increase in CT personal income or inflation
  • Denise Merrill was right -- More of a “guide” than an absolute
  • They blow past it when they want to, first line excuse in saying no to advocates
rainy day fund
Rainy Day Fund
  • Hedge against bad economic times
  • Surpluses must go there first theoretically
  • Holds up to 5% of General Fund appropriations
  • Emptied fast to cover declining revenues
  • State may need a higher threshold to really even out cycles and allow better planning – national avg. is 8%
the art of the fiscal note
The art of the fiscal note
  • Appendix to bills estimating how much the bill would cost the state (and municipalities) if passed
  • Drafted by OFA
  • High fiscal note can kill a bill
  • Often very subjective estimates
  • Often based (sometimes entirely) on agency input
  • Can give input to OFA, generally thru a legislator
  • Generally do not share publicly on your website, but deliver to your champion/messenger
  • Do your homework on estimating, show ALL your work, use credible sources
  • Difficult/impossible to change after the note is out
  • No one ever checks to see if notes are realistic afterwards, impolitic and pointless
federal block grants
Federal block grants
  • Run through agencies who decide how it will be divvied up, with legislative approval
  • Public hearings, but not well advertised
  • e.g. MCH grant
    • from HRSA
    • $5 million
    • must be matched with state funding
    • Services include newborn screening, children with special health care needs, outreach and care coordination for at-risk pregnancies, oral health
  • State borrowing, supposedly for infrastructure and long term costs
  • Governor proposes, compromise with legislature, bill passes
  • But to be spent (allocated), it must pass the Bond Commission
  • Bond Commission agenda set by OPM – need them to get a project on the agenda
  • To see what gets on the agenda each month, and what has been funded in the past, check the Comptroller’s Bond Allocation Database – fascinating
  • OFA Budget Book http://www.cga.ct.gov/ofa/Documents/OFABudget/2005/Book/OpenBook.htm
  • Governor’s budget http://www.opm.state.ct.us/budget/2006-2007Books/2006-2007GovBudget.htm
  • Comptroller’s Bond Database http://www.osc.state.ct.us/finance/

For more help and regularly updated information go to

The Health Advocacy Toolboxwww.cthealthpolicy.org/toolbox