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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 l.jpg

Budget Advocacy

Advocacy 101 for community organizations

September 13, 2005

Guest: John Clark, Office of State Comptroller

CT Health Policy Project


The basics l.jpg
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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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)

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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

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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%

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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

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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

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  • 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

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  • 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/

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For more help and regularly updated information go to

The Health Advocacy Toolboxwww.cthealthpolicy.org/toolbox