Although congressional Democrats failed to secure protection for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Connecticut may have plenty to gain from the federal budget that President Donald Trump signed into law on Friday, according to the state’s all-Democratic delegation.
The bipartisan federal budget agreement, which ended a string of fiscal standoffs, will increase defense and domestic spending by more than 10 percent over the next two years. The budget includes funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and community health centers, $20 billion for infrastructure and $6 billion for fighting the opioid crisis — both issues of particular relevance to Connecticut. According to lawmakers, the budget means good news for Connecticut in a number of ways, from defense contracting to health care and relief for dairy farmers. All seven members of the Connecticut congressional delegation voted in favor of the budget.
“This is a really good budget agreement for Connecticut. More money for submarines, helicopters and engines. Emergency funding for the opioid crisis. New relief for dairy farmers and community health centers,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said in a Feb. 8 press release. “This deal isn’t perfect, but [it] gets us much-needed certainty about the future of federal spending and taxes.”
Still, Democrats and much of the Connecticut delegation did not get their wish of extending protection for those legally in the country under DACA, an Obama-era executive program that allowed certain undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to remain in the country.
According to Joe Brennan, the president of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the defense sector plays a key role in Connecticut’s economy. The large increases in the production of aircrafts and submarines called for by the budget, he said, bode well not only for the state’s defense contractors but also for many more companies down the supply chain, such as manufacturing plants that provide raw materials.
The budget has also helped stave off a looming crisis for Connecticut’s community health centers, which have gone without federal funding for months. Deb Polun, spokesperson for the Community Health Center of Connecticut, said that these centers mostly provide primary and preventive health care for people in underserved communities, regardless of insurance status, and thus depend heavily on federal dollars. The funding came just in time, she said, before many community health centers will start operating on next year’s budget in March.
“If the funding were not extended, that would mean a $40 million loss for community health centers in Connecticut, leading to hundreds of layoffs and rollbacks in services,” Polun said. “Having this extended is a huge sigh of relief for all of us.”
Polun also stressed the importance of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, for which the budget extends funding for 10 years. She credited the program with lowering the rate of uninsured children in Connecticut to under 5 percent.
One aspect of the budget in particular stands out and bears the unmistakable mark of the Nutmeg State. The Newman’s Own Foundation in Westport was granted a special exemption — making it the only beneficiary in the nation — from a crippling 200 percent asset tax on private foundations that own more than 20 percent of for-profit companies for more than five years.
Bob Forrester, president of the foundation, told the News that, while previous tax clauses understandably sought to discourage people from shielding their assets in private foundations, Congress originally did not account for Newman’s Own’s unique operational structure. Ever since Hollywood star Paul Newman DRA ’54 transferred his company to the foundation before his death in 2008, the foundation has been running the business and donating the profits to various philanthropic pursuits. Though a sympathetic Internal Revenue Service had delayed the enforcement of the tax provision for five years, the hard deadline was approaching in the coming months.
“If this law had not passed, we would have to start breaking up Newman’s Own by the end of first quarter,” Forrester said.
Conspicuously absent from the budget was extended protection for DACA recipients, a major point of contention in recent months. Immigrant advocacy groups expressed broad disappointment about the bill: The American Civil Liberties Union called the budget “unacceptable” and said it “left young immigrants lingering and vulnerable to Trump’s deportation force.”
Many Democrats voted for the bill despite misgivings, including U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-New Haven, who said it is “imperative that Congress pass a bill that protects DACA recipients before the March 5 deadline when their protection ends.”
Still, many have sounded alarms about the soaring deficit the budget — in conjunction with last year’s tax reform — will likely create. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the budget will add $320 billion to the deficit over ten years, and an analysis by the Washington-based Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget showed that the deficit will reach $1.2 trillion next year and remain over $1 trillion indefinitely, a level unprecedented in times of economic expansion.
Marc Goldwein, the senior vice president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said that while the budget serves certain desirable goals, the massive increase also goes to many low-priority items. Over the long term, he added, the debt accumulated is likely to crowd out investment and reduce economic growth.
“It’s really hard to spend $400 billion dollars and not spend on anything people like,” Goldwein said. “But it’s unsustainable. The longer we wait to make adjustments, the more painful they will be and the more will be borne by younger people and future generations.”
The budget passed with by 71–28 vote in the Senate and a 240–186 vote in the House of Representatives.
Malcolm Tang | firstname.lastname@example.org