Friday, January 30, 2009
This Week in Wasington
ECONOMIC RECOVERY PACKAGE MOVING IN SENATE AND HOUSE
The House passed its version of the economic recovery package by a vote of 244-188. For the Ohio delegation is was a strict party line vote.
The Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees adopted their pieces of the economic recovery package earlier this week. Senator Voinovich, newly appointed to the Senate Appropriations Committee, voted against the bill that came out of committee.
There is concern about possible floor amendments that would: 1) reduce state fiscal relief (temporary FMAP increase and the state fiscal stabilization/education fund); 2) reduce or modify the improvements in the refundable tax credits that help low-income working families and stimulate the economy, and 3) strike unemployment modernization from the bill at the time it is most needed.
In addition, there will likely be a significant number of poorly designed and badly-targeted tax cuts offered on the Senate floor that could end up squeezing out key spending investments that are far greater economic stimulus.
SCHIP REAUTHORIZATION MOVING IN THE SENATE
After three days of contentious floor debate, the Senate passed its version of SCHIP by a strong bipartisan vote of 66 – 32 with the restoration of legal immigrants at state option intact! We’re well on our way to increasing health care coverage for approximately 4 million low-income children!
Yesterday House Speaker Pelosi echoed floor statements by Senator Baucus of hopes the House will take up the Senate’s version of the bill next week, and move the legislation quickly to the President’s desk for signature. There are some differences between the House and Senate versions, however. If the House does not adopt the Senate’s SCHIP bill, both houses should be able to resolve their differences pretty quickly.
HOUSE TO ACT ON FY 2009 OMNIBUS APPROPRIATIONS BILL NEXT WEEK
The Speaker has indicated that the House is likely to take up a bill next week to fund the nine unfinished domestic appropriations bills through the remainder of the fiscal year (September 30, 2009). This is probably not a significant opportunity for advocacy as the Committees have already drafted their bills to use funding provided through the FY2009 Budget Resolution. The current continuing resolution provides funding through March 6, 2009.
PRESIDENT’S BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS TO BE UNVEILED FEB 24
We expect to get a first look at the President’s budget proposals on Tuesday, February 24.
Governor Strickland highlights early care and education in his State of the State address
Further discussions with members of the Administration emphasized that although early childhood programs will be brought together under ODE, they will continue to offer services through both public schools and private community providers. Bringing the programs under one roof will also allow the administration to streamline the standards and reporting requirements of the various programs, improving efficiency and quality throughout the system.
Also included in Governor Strickland’s education proposal was the implementation of mandatory full-day kindergarten for every child in Ohio. Currently, slightly more than half of Ohio’s children participate in a full-day program. Research has shown that full-day kindergarten can reduce grade retention by 26 percent. This would represent a significant cost savings for Ohio’s K-12 system, which spent $43 million in 2006 on grade retention for students in kindergarten through third grade alone.
Will the Unified Long Term Care Budget become a reality?
With these words, Governor Strickland hinted in his State of the State address that the Unified Long Term Care Budget (ULTCB) will have some level of funding in his budget proposal (due to be introduced on Monday).
The ULTCB was created as part of the SFY 2008/2009 budget and it consolidates budgeting and policymaking for long-term care into a single authority maximizing the state’s flexibility in meeting consumer’s needs. The ULTCB Workgroup decided to take an inclusive approach to their recommendations, which include all Ohioans in need of long term care, regardless of age or payer source. In the Workgroup's final report, they outlined a five year implementation plan that will begin in the coming biennium and extend through the next two. Since FY2010 will be the first year of funding, hopefully Strickland’s comments during his speech signal that he is going ahead with the recommendations, even with the budget difficulties the state is facing.
Want to learn more about the ULTCB? Two sessions at the upcoming Human Services Institute will focus on this topic. Our speakers will be Dr. Robert Applebaum of SCRIPPS (who was a member of the ULTCB Workgroup) and Director of Aging Barbara Riley. The Institute is March 13 and registration is on our website.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Governor's State of the State
He also announced several initiatives to strengthen the economy and improve the longterm outlook for the state. Education remained a high priority - education will be a comprehensive P through 16 system, the Department of Education will oversee early childhood development programs, we will have universal all-day kindergarten and an improved school funding formula with the state taking on an increased portion of education funding to 55 and then 59%. He also described ways to increase accessibility of health care to an additional 110,000 Ohioans.
However, these initiatives require additional funding, and yet his executive budget, will not increase taxes and is $3.2 billion below 2009 planning levels. Rather than increasing tax revenues, his budget relies on revenues from existing resources, one-time cash transfers, increases in agency fees, fines, and penalties, and an anticipated $3.4 billion from the federal economic recovery package. The budget has spending reductions including 10-20% program cuts to services at a time when families are having a harder time getting by. Hopefully painful cuts to vital services won’t be part of a temporary solution to a permanent problem. Even if these sources are enough for the 2010-11 budget, they won’t solve the structural deficit, our habit of spending more than we collect in revenues.
To see the text of the address, go to http://www.governor.ohio.gov/GovernorsOffice/StateoftheState/StateoftheState2009/tabid/984/Default.aspx
Revisiting Medicaid Reform Released
The State of the State is "Steadfast"
You can read the full text of his address on the Governor’s website here.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
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And in the true spirit of social marketing, let me know if your organization is on Facebook and I'll happily become your fan! You can e-mail me directly, find me on Facebook, or comment on this post.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
67th Annual Human Services Institute Registration is Now Open!
Details for the 67th annual Human Services Institute are now available: https://www.communitysolutions.com/hsevent/!
Join us on March 13 for the 67th annual Human Services Institute! It's a day filled with more programming than ever, including plenary addresses on education in Ohio and environmental justice, as well as 30 educational sessions addressing topics such as:
• Federal/State Budget Advocacy
• Nonprofit Business and Succession Planning
• Long-Term Care: Issue of the Century
• Childhood Obesity
• Using Social Indicators and Related Data for Grant Applications
• Foreclosure Prevention, and
• many more!
Click here for sessions details!
Marketing Opportunities! Make connections and tell your story with two unique opportunities - click here to find out more!
Don't hesitate, register now and pass along the word to a friend...
Saturday, January 17, 2009
This Week in Washington
The House passed the SCHIP reauthorization bill on Wednesday by a strong bipartisan margin. The House version is very similar to the first vetoed bill from 2007 (CHIPRA1) with a few changes, and also includes ICHIA (optional coverage for legal immigrant children and pregnant women). Ohio Representatives Austria, Boccieri, Driehaus, Fudge, Kaptur, Kilroy, Kucinich, LaTourette, Ryan, Space, Sutton, Tiberi, Turner, and Wilson all voted for the bill.
The Senate Finance Committee marked up its version of the SCHIP reauthorization package Tuesday where ICHIA was added by amendment in a 12-7 vote. The committee also included an amendment offered by Senator Snowe to allow dental coverage of underinsured children as an option under SCHIP (i.e., children with private insurance who lack dental coverage).
Senate floor action will begin late next week with debate expected to continue into the following week.
Once the Senate passes its version, the legislation will go to a conference (formal or informal) to resolve remaining differences in the House and Senate bills.
ECONOMIC RECOVERY PACKAGE
Information on the Senate’s version of the recovery package is expected soon. The Senate Appropriations and Finance Committees could mark up as early as next week, with the full Senate considering the measure toward the end of the month or early February. The Senate package will be fully amendable.
The House Appropriations and Ways and Means Committees are expected to mark up their sections of the package next week. Floor consideration is likely the week of January 26 (most likely Wednesday). The package is not likely to be amendable.
Below is a list of key provisions in the package:
· FMAP: $87 billion in state fiscal relief through a temporary increase in the federal Medicaid match and relief to states by extending the moratoria on the regulations adopted last year;
· Other state fiscal relief: $79 billion in state fiscal relief to prevent cutbacks to key services, including $39 billion to local school districts and public colleges and universities, $15 billion to states as bonus grants for meeting performance measures, and $25 billion to states for public safety and other critical services, which may include education;
· Low-Income Home Energy Assistance: $1 billion in additional funding;
· Unemployment Insurance: encourages modernization, continues the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program, and increases UI checks by $25/week;
· Child Tax Credit: temporarily lifts the earnings requirement for families to qualify;
· Earned Income Tax Credit: expanded for families with three or more children by increasing the “credit rate” — also known as the phase-in rate — to 45 percent (from the current 40 percent). Also extends the income range over which married couples qualify for the maximum EITC — known as “marriage penalty relief.”
· Higher education tax credit: $2,500 tax credit for the first four years of higher education expenses, which will now be partially refundable;
· Pell grants: $500 increase in the maximum Pell grant;
· Medicaid/COBRA: provides temporary subsidies for health insurance coverage to those who lose their jobs;
· Food Stamps: $20 billion for a temporary increases in food stamp benefits;
· TANF: allows states to qualify for “emergency contingency funds” for each quarter in 2009 and 2010 based on increased expenditures for basic assistance (if the state also has an increase in its caseload for that quarter compared to the same quarter in 2007 or 2008), increased expenditures for subsidized employment, and/or increased expenditures in short-term non-recurrent benefits. In each category, the state qualifies for an amount equal to 80 percent of the increased costs (if any).
· Public Housing Capital Fund: $5 billion for building repair and modernization;
· HOME Investment Partnerships: $1.5 billion to help local communities build and rehabilitate low-income housing using green technologies;
· Neighborhood Stabilization: $4.2 billion to help communities purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed, vacant properties;
· Homeless Assistance Grants: $1.5 billion for the Emergency Shelter Grant program to provide short term rental assistance, housing relocation, and stabilization services;
· Child Support Enforcement: $1 billion to provide federal incentive funds for states to collect support owed to families;
· SSI: provides a one-time payment to SSI recipients in 2009. For individual SSI recipients, the payment would equal the average one-month payment of singles; for couples, the payment would equal the average one-month payment;
· Child Care: $2 billion in additional funding for the remainder of 2009 and 2010;
· Head Start: $2.1 billion in additional funding over the 2009-2010 period; and
· WIA: House bill adds $4 billion total, including $1.2 billion for youth.
The House package is reported to cost $825 billion over two years. About $275 billion of that is through tax cuts.
Since different versions are likely to emerge, a conference is expected, but Obama officials have indicated they will work to have the differences reconciled quickly. The goal remains to complete work by Presidents’ Day.
Friday, January 16, 2009
House Recovery Package: Something Old and Something New
Among the strategies we have seen successfully before are those programs that quickly put money back into the economy. To address rising energy costs, the bill includes $1 billion for LIHEAP (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program). Supplemental nutrition assistance is increased by $20 billion, and time restrictions on how long participants can be on the food stamp program are lifted. The current extension of unemployment insurance will be further stretched through December 31, 2009. In addition, the benefit itself will be raised by $25 a week during the same time period.
Some of the boldest measures come in the field of health care. In addition to a 4.8 percent increase in the federal Medicaid contribution and further relief for high unemployment states, the bill includes measures explicitly and implicitly designed to bring the country closer to universal health care.
The act contains $600 million in training dollars for primary care providers “to address the shortages and prepare our country for universal health care.” Funds will support training for doctors, dentists, nurses, and medical students who commit to work in underserved communities.
To stretch health care coverage the bill makes some significant changes to the COBRA program for unemployed workers 55and older and those who have been steadily employed for 10 years. These people will be able to “retain their COBRA coverage until they become Medicare eligible or secure coverage through a subsequent employer.” The COBRA adjustments also provide a 65 percent subsidy for the first 12 months to those who lost their jobs on or after September 1, 2008.
For those who are not voluntarily unemployed and live at 200 percent of the federal poverty level (or a level set by the State), states have the option of adding them and their dependents to the Medicaid rolls. Eligibility is also extended to people receiving food stamps.
These are ambitious measures that could go a long way to relieving the pressure of health care costs for many Americans. It is important to remember, however, that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is only two-year legislation intended to bring the country out of the current recession. It is by no means clear that these changes would become permanent.
Sheridan: Restoring Legislative Fiscal Equality
Congress Moves Closer to SCHIP Reauthorization this Week
In a strong bipartisan showing, Representatives Austria, Boccieri, Driehaus, Fudge, Kaptur, Kilroy, Kucinich, LaTourette, Ryan, Space, Sutton, Tiberi, Turner, and Wilson supported a four-and-a-half year reauthorization of the program which will cover an additional four million children nationally. This brings the total number of children covered by SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) or Medicaid programs to over ten million.
Thursday a similar proposal passed out of the Senate Finance Committee for consideration on the Senate floor.
With Ohio and the nation facing the ramifications of the current recession, especially unemployment and the resulting increase in the need for safety net programs, SCHIP will be a lifeline to families. The loss of health care is one of the most frightening aspects of job loss for many families. Passage of this legislation will help ease the pressure on Ohio’s SCHIP-eligible families.
It is important that Congress and the Obama administration move quickly to pass this long overdue legislation. As the impact of the economic downturn further deepens, this successful program will take on even greater importance to struggling families.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Briefing a success, despite the weather
Over 40 legislators and legislative staff attended the event. After a welcome and introduction by John Begala, John Habat gave an engaging presentation on the current tax structure, impact of recent tax reform, and revenue enhancement options. Attendees were very interested in Community Solutions’ new, state-of-the-art model for independently projecting revenues and expenditures and evaluating the fiscal impact of budget proposals.
And we’re taking the show on the road – if advocates are interested in a similar presentation on state taxes and revenues, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. No matter the weather, we’ll be there!
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Congress is back in session and high on their list of priorities is finally reauthorizing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) which couldn’t overcome a presidential veto in 2007. The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on Wednesday the 14th where it is likely to pass. Then the focus moves to the Senate with committee consideration this week followed by consideration by the full Senate next week.
The House and Senate bills are similar. The program will mean 4 million children in addition to the over six million children currently covered will be served by either the SCHIP or Medicaid programs. The majority of those newly covered children covered will be under 200% of the federal poverty level (currently $21,200 for a family of four). The legislation runs through September 2013 and is largely funded by a .61 cent increase in the tobacco tax.
One major difference between the two bills is coverage for low-income, legal immigrant children. The House gives states the option to remove the Medicaid and SCHIP five year waiting period for these children while the Senate does not. However, an amendment to add this provision to the Senate bill is expected to be offered and passed during Thursday’s Finance Committee markup. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and other Committee members have voiced support for covering legal immigrant children . This provision, known as ICHIA (Immigrant Children’s Health Improvement Act), will also give states the option to provide coverage for low-income immigrant women who are pregnant.
Hopes are high in Washington that a bill will be ready for the president’s signature soon after the inauguration on January 20. Be sure to weigh in with your House members and Senators Brown and Voinovich on the importance of this program to Ohio’s families.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Taxing Issues REDUX Presents State Budget Analysis, Options, New Methodology
House Leaders Speak on Budget Challenges
Both made gestures to meet the challenge by putting partisanship aside. Rep. Budish described how he named the House clerk from the majority party and a deputy clerk from the minority party. Rep. Batchelder proposed a nonpartisan independent legislative budget office.
To balance the budget, Rep. Batchelder suggested that Ohio trim its budget through government efficiency, and rejected tax increases and gambling as revenue options. Rep. Budish expressed the need to be creative to increase revenues, including the possibility of gambling. Both talked about using taxes to strengthen the economy. Rep. Budish suggested business incentives, and Rep. Batchelder suggested decreasing income and inheritance taxes. Both stated that an increase in the federal government’s share of Medicaid is vital.
Friday, January 09, 2009
This Week in Washington
SCHIP COULD MOVE VERY QUICKLY
Legislation to reauthorize SCHIP will likely move before the economic recovery package with votes anticipated next week in the House and possibly in the Senate as well. Hopefully the legislation will closely resemble the first vetoed bill from 2007 which passed with bipartisan support. Democratic leaders have indicated they would also like to include ICHIA (optional coverage for legal immigrant children) in the reauthorization. Keep an eye out for more details from us next week.
Action Steps. We would encourage you to reach out to members in the House to help bolster support.
ECONOMIC RECOVERY PACKAGE
The process for moving the economic recovery package has been slower than the leaders had hoped. While the Obama transition team and Congressional leadership have done significant work on many provisions, rank-and-file members are back in Washington, DC and are asking questions and asking for changes. Important decision-making meetings are occurring now, but the roll-out timeline appears to be slowing down.
Today’s jobless report puts additional pressure on Congress to act.
Cost. The target cost for the package is still about $800 billion over 2 years. About $300 billion of that is likely to be tax cuts, but that amount could increase in the Senate. The leadership is trying to prevent the package from becoming a free-for-all by insisting that provisions put money in the hands of consumers, help protect jobs and vital services, and help create jobs.
Committees. Some committee hearings are possible next week. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees, the House Ways and Means Committee, and the Senate Finance Committees are the most likely to hold markups. Floor consideration should follow fairly quickly after the committees act.
Floor. The House bill is not likely to be amendable. However, the Senate package will be fully amendable, so floor consideration could take a week or even two. Since different versions are likely to emerge, a conference is likely. The goal is to complete work by Presidents’ Day.
Key items. Our work is likely to focus on defending key provisions and warding off damaging amendments. Chances are good that the package will include:
· Substantial state fiscal relief (including no less than $100 billion in a temporary FMAP increase),
· Unemployment Insurance modernization,
· Temporary improvements in the refundability of the child tax credit,
· Temporary increases in food stamp benefits, and
· Improvements in the TANF contingency fund and other safety net programs.
Key threats. There is conern over attacks being mounted on several high-priority policies such as:
· State fiscal relief,
· Unemployment modernization,
· Improvements in the refundability of the child tax credit (CTC), and
· Improvements in other safety net programs.
There is also concern that some Senators will push for high-cost business tax credits that would not stimulate the economy and could force reductions in resources for higher priority provisions.
CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE (CBO) RELEASES NEW BUDGET PROJECTIONS
CBO now projects a deficit of nearly $1.2 trillion in the current fiscal year (2009) if there are no changes in policy. This does not include the cost of the economic recovery bill or other new legislation, or the additional funds needed for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (CBO’s baseline includes spending for the war at the level supported by funds already appropriated for 2009 — that $67 billion is less than half of what is needed to maintain current operations). That would be the largest deficit in history in nominal terms, and at 8.3 percent of GDP, it would be the largest deficit as a share of the economy since World War II (the previous post-war high was 6.0 of GDP in 1983).
The effects of the recession will fade over the next several years, so CBO’s baseline deficits will decline from the level projected for 2009. CBO projects that the deficit will decline to just over $250 billion in 2012 and remain fairly close to that level through 2019. But this assumes that there is no change in current laws, which means the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are assumed to expire at the end of 2010 and no further relief from the AMT will be provided.