State’s congressional delegation gets hard-fought wins on children’s health care, taxes

Connecticut Post

Connecticut’s congressional delegation came up with a few hard-fought wins Wednesday when a Senate committee reauthorized the stalled Children’s Health Insurance Program and Republican House leaders backed away from revoking deductions for state and local taxes.

“The jury is still out, but I’m cautiously optimistic this provision is not going to fly,” said Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., of growing Republican disenchantment with the state-local tax provision, which affects states like Connecticut that have an income tax in addition to property taxes. “I don’t see how any (Republican in states such as New York and California) could vote for this. I could write the campaign ad right now.”

Although revocation of the state-local tax deduction is still an official part of the GOP tax-reform plan unveiled last week, Republicans appeared uneasy over the potential political costs.

Those leaders on Wednesday appeared to inch away — at least from a full cancellation of the state-local tax break.

“We want to make sure we lower taxes for every American, regardless of where they live,” House Ways & Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said.

Even upscale taxpayers in Connecticut depend on deductions of property and income taxes to make life affordable. In Fairfield County, the average return includes a deduction of $14,260.

The children’s insurance program — CHIP — is a 20-year old federal-state match that provides funds for children in families that make too much money for Medicaid but lack private health insurance through parents’ employers.

Connecticut’s CHIP Husky B program covers 17,000 children under 19 in the state. Washington covers about 88 percent of it, according to the state Department of Social Services. Amounts may vary but it is in the range of $70 million annually.

The authorization expired this past Sunday, with Republicans consumed by the battle to repeal and replace Obamacare and in no apparent hurry to reauthorize CHIP.

But on Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee on a bipartisan voice vote approved reauthorization for five years.

Both of Connecticut’s Democratic senators — Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal — urged swift passage by Congress.

“The committee’s approval of this funding is welcome, but unacceptably overdue,” said Blumenthal. “It is time for Republican leaders to step up and prove they are serious about Americans’ health coverage — starting with the full Senate passing this bill immediately.”

“Thousands of parents in Connecticut are waiting in limbo, uncertain if their children will have health care, because Republicans have been distracted by partisan efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” Murphy said. “It’s time to come together for these families and reauthorize HUSKY B funding.”