Gov. Ned Lamont addresses a joint session of the Connecticut House and Senate as he presents his budget proposal for 2023-2024. Stephen Busemeyer / CT Mirror

This story has been updated.

The General Assembly has taken up some major pieces of legislation during the 2023 session, but not every bill got its own spotlight.

As the session wore on, some proposals were eventually incorporated into the state budget that the General Assembly approved Monday and Tuesday. Here is a selection of some of those proposals that have passed within the budget bill.


Medical debt erasure

The biennial state budget adopted in both chambers this week includes $6.5 million to help erase medical debt for low-income households.

The funding set aside was substantially lower than what Gov. Ned Lamont had proposed in February — $20 million that he said potentially could have canceled as much as $2 billion in medical debt for thousands of residents.

The governor’s plan involved working with a nonprofit organization that has been negotiating with hospitals to purchase medical debt at extreme discounts. The charity then cancels the debt.

Legislators, facing fiscal constraints, instead settled on $6.5 million for the cause, which they said could still help clear hundreds of millions in medical debt.

Lamont on Tuesday called the final amount “a pretty good start.”

“I think [having] medical debt hanging over your head like the sword of Damocles is tough,” he said. “It’s tougher to get a mortgage. It’s tougher to get back on your own feet. You come out, maybe you get your physical health back, but you’re bankrupt. And that’s just wrong.

“I thought, in terms of giving people opportunity when it comes to the wealth gap, that was something important to do,” Lamont said. “And if we get $6 million or $7 million out, that’s a pretty good start, because I can leverage that 100 to one. That’s thousands of families that will be much better off for it.”

Funding for federally qualified health centers

Lawmakers set aside $32 million in the state budget as a one-time funding boost for Connecticut’s 17 federally qualified health centers to help maintain staff and services.

Federally qualified health centers provide care to low-income residents and people without permanent legal status who may not have access to health coverage.

More than 65% of patients visiting the health centers identify as Black or Hispanic, officials said, and the facilities treat many people who come from underserved communities.

About 61% of the 417,000 people who visit the state’s FQHCs each year are Medicaid recipients. The facilities also don’t turn away anyone who cannot pay.

But reimbursement for services has not kept up with cost increases over time, officials said, and the additional funding was needed to stay afloat and avoid cuts to care and hours of operation.

Some facility leaders said that without the money, they would have had to trim dental care and specialty care like podiatry and chiropractor services.

“We’re very thrilled that we had bipartisan support from both the House and Senate who recognize the importance of the community health centers and the services they provide,” said Kathy Yacavone, interim CEO of the Community Health Center Association of Connecticut.

HUSKY coverage for immigrants

In the state budget that gained final approval in the Senate on Tuesday, lawmakers approved an expansion of Medicaid coverage to include children 15 and younger regardless of immigration status.

Current law allows kids 12 and younger without permanent legal status to access the benefit.

Under the proposal approved Tuesday, children 15 and younger not only are allowed to enroll in the program — so long as their families meet the qualifying income limit — they also can keep the coverage through age 19. But those older than 15 when the expansion begins will not be eligible. It will take effect on July 1, 2024.

Advocates said the expansion didn’t go far enough, however. Earlier versions of the measure would have extended Medicaid to undocumented residents 25 and younger or to those 18 and younger.

“While we appreciate that our elected officials have been committed to steady progress, it really is too slow,” said Carolina Bortolleto, a volunteer with the HUSKY for Immigrants Coalition and a co-founder of Connecticut Students for a Dream. “Our view is that a budget is a moral document, and we really need our legislators to prioritize and invest in the health of our most marginalized populations. Right now this budget doesn’t do that.”

HUSKY C income eligibility

The budget earmarks $8.5 million in FY 2025 to increase the income limit for HUSKY C, the state’s Medicaid program for people who are disabled or over 65. 

To qualify, residents must remain in poverty and severely limit their savings in order to keep their Medicaid coverage. Currently, recipients must earn less than $1,182 per month. The provision would boost the income limit by $94 to roughly $1,276 per month, or 105% of the federal poverty level (FPL). The asset limits will remain unchanged. Individuals must have less than $1,600 — $2,400 for a couple — in savings to qualify. 

The provision disappointed advocates, who said it does not go nearly far enough to address the discrimination faced by residents covered through HUSKY C.

“This budget yet again sends the message that the lives and health of people with disabilities and older adults are expendable,” said Jordan Fairchild, a community organizer with Keep the Promise Coalition.  

By comparison, neither HUSKY A nor HUSKY D has an asset limit. Those programs provide Medicaid to adults who are caretaker relatives of children and non-disabled adults under 65, respectively. Eligibility for HUSKY A is capped at 160% of FPL and HUSKY D is capped at 138% of FPL, both higher than the limit of 105% of FPL for HUSKY C.

Medicaid payments for specialists

The budget authorizes $3 million in ARPA funds for a study on Medicaid reimbursement rates, which establish how much providers get paid to treat patients on Medicaid. The budget also provides $7 million to increase the Medicaid rates paid to specialist physicians and $5 million to increase the rates paid to ambulance providers.

Connecticut has not provided a rate increase for most specialist physicians in over 15 years, which providers say forces them to limit the number of Medicaid patients they see. 

In 2007, Connecticut set the Medicaid reimbursement rates for most physician services at 57.5% of the Medicare rate at the time. The rates have not been broadly adjusted since, though certain providers, including primary care physicians and OBGYNs, have received rate increases. 

OPM secretary Jeff Beckham said that the state plans to address this issue further.

“There’s a study underway and there’s a couple more that we’re going to do as well,” said Beckham during a press conference. “We hope to get enough information available to us that we can make adjustments in the midterm. We’re well aware that the rates need to be updated and we have a plan to do that next year.”

Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said he expects Medicaid reimbursement rates to be front and center next legislative session. 

“That could be a really big topic next year,” he said. “It would not surprise me if that was one of the bigger issues.”


Voting rights

Lawmakers opted to include the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of Connecticut in the budget rather than debate it on the House floor, which means that the bill goes into effect starting in July, pending Lamont’s signature.

The legislation passed the Senate on a 27-9 vote last month, following hours of emotionally charged debate among lawmakers over what the proposal would accomplish. The Senate’s approval of the comprehensive bill marked the first time it passed out of either chamber since it was introduced in 2021. 

Resembling key protections outlined in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the legislation requires municipalities with a record of voter discrimination to receive clearance from either the secretary of the state or a superior court before implementing changes to election-related policies.

It outlaws municipalities from taking actions that would interfere with the right to vote of any protected class member, defined as a class of citizens who are members of a race, color or language minority group, and require municipalities to provide language-related assistance to voters if their population comprises a certain percentage of people who speak English “less than very well.” It allows the superior court to “order appropriate remedies” if and when it finds that a municipality violated the law.

Under the bill, residents can also sue against acts of intimidation, deception or obstruction that interfere with their right to vote. Additionally, it produces a publicly accessible database under the secretary of the state’s office providing certain elections and demographics information. 

Correctional ombuds

The budget allocates a combined $800,000 over the next two fiscal years for the Office of the Correction Ombuds, a rejuvenated effort to establish independent oversight of the state’s Department of Correction. Funding will go toward “staff salaries, office expenses, and other expenses the ombuds office incurs in performing its duties,” according to the statute that created the office.

To the disappointment of the Correction Advisory Committee, a group tasked with helping Lamont appoint the correctional ombudsperson, the funding falls short of what was outlined by the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis. The office assessed that it would cost a combined $1.3 million over FY24 and FY25 to fund one ombudsperson and six supporting staff.

In a letter written to House and Senate leadership in late May, the committee warned that insufficient funding “would pose the serious risk of smothering the Office in its infancy and sending the message that Connecticut does not take correctional oversight as seriously” as officials promised it would.

On Tuesday, Office of Policy and Management Secretary Jeffrey Beckham said that the state can address the funding in next year’s legislative session if it’s inadequate, adding that “it has to be funded so that it’s effective.”

Sen. Gary Winfield, co-chair of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, said that he believes the question of whether the allocated funds are sufficient is legitimate.

“We have not made improvement on a lot of things in this budget as we would like,” he said. “That’s where we are. Having said that, ‘What can we do with the money that we have?’ is the question, right? Not to say, ‘Oh, I can’t do all the stuff I want to do.’ But that’s the money you have for now until we can figure something out.”

Assigned counsel

The Division of Public Defender Services’ assigned counsel, contract attorneys who handle criminal and child welfare cases, were allotted a $19.6 million increase in funding over two years.

The increase is less than the almost $46 million officials had requested — and roughly $3.4 million less than what the Appropriations Committee recommended — though Chief Public Defender TaShun Bowden-Lewis said that any additional funding was needed. Hourly rates for all assigned counsel haven’t increased since 2007, are lower than other state agencies and are lower than other New England states, according to a memo presented to appropriations leadership earlier this year.

Officials and employees in the division have indicated that indigent people who haven’t had their representation needs met could file a class action lawsuit against the state if the attorneys weren’t provided more sufficient funding.


Housing department

The budget would make the Department of Housing its own executive branch agency, pulling it from the umbrella of the Department of Economic and Community Development. DECD would instead house the Office of Workforce Strategy, which previously existed under the Governor’s Office.

The department would also see a slight increase in its allocations from the general fund — about $400,000 more than last year.

Programs funding

It also extends housing services to residents of Norwich and New London through Project Longevity. The program aims to reduce gun violence and is set to receive $500,000 in both fiscal years 2024 and 2025 for housing vouchers.

It allows a carry forward of $2 million from the department’s Housing/Homeless Services to be used as emergency rental assistance in fiscal year 2024.

Municipal changes

Towns would also have to report changes in housing stock to the Department of Economic and Community Development or risk becoming ineligible for certain discretionary state funding from DECD.

The budget bill would also make it optional for towns to work with the Municipal Redevelopment Authority. But towns that do opt to collaborate with the authority would have to submit a housing growth zone proposal to get authority funds. The zoning growth would be focused around adding housing units near public transportation.

Lamont and Housing Committee leadership had earmarked money for increasing the state’s housing stock and making energy-related improvements to multifamily housing, among other housing related projects in early drafts of the state’s bonding proposal. 

The proposal wasn’t finalized as of Tuesday evening.



The budget included an increase in Education Cost Sharing grants to towns of over $54 million next year, followed by another $109 million in 2025. The $163 million, from the budget, will be added on top of $140 million over the biennium that was already approved.

The funding falls short of a bill proposal of $360 million from earlier this session, but it accelerates the ECS phase-in schedule by two years so Connecticut towns receive full funding by 2026 rather than 2028.

The budget also includes $25 million more for special education costs and $16 million for school nutrition programs, which will extend free school meals to students whose families make 200% or less of the federal poverty line.

The budget also includes a $45 million increase in non-education municipal aid.

Higher Education

Debt-free community college has been expanded to returning students and increases the minimum grant amounts for the Pledge to Advance CT program.

The budget provides $23.5 million to the debt-free community college program in 2024 and increases the amount to $28.5 million by 2025.

Similar to this year, the state universities and community colleges will receive about $630 million in 2024.

But in 2025, the regional universities and community colleges would be expected to get by with about $115 million less than they received in 2023-24.

Similarly, the University of Connecticut and its Farmington-based health center would receive about $20 million to $30 million less than the level needed to maintain current services in the first year of the new biennium. But the funding gap in the second year would exceed $100 million.

The budget also allotted $150,000 in stipends for graduates of Stone Academy and gives the Office of Higher Education access to the student protection fund to reimburse tuition costs to students who were still studying at the nursing school amid its abrupt shut down.

Student loan reimbursement

The budget sets aside $6 million over two years to establish a pilot program to reimburse qualifying residents up to $20,000 for student loan payments.

Recipients must 1) be current residents of Connecticut who have lived in-state for at least five years, 2) have attended a vocational school or college in Connecticut and 3) have an annual income under $125,000 for an individual and $175,000 for a couple.

The program will make payments to recipients of up to $5,000 a year for up to four years. Recipients will have to complete 50 hours of community service and submit proof of eligibility for each year they participate. Payments will be provided on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Addressing student debt

The budget implementer includes provisions that would create a student loan ombudsman’s office and expand a state registry for student loan servicers to include subservices of these loans. Proponents said the additional oversight in the registry would give borrowers more information when weighing loan options and provide for data collection that could inform future legislation. The ombudsman would be tasked with offering education and information to help borrowers understand their rights and responsibilities. The office would also work to analyze and resolve complaints from student borrowers.

Economic development

Support for culture industries

The budget implementer includes provisions that will support film, television, digital media and theater production in the state through tax credits.

Under Connecticut’s existing film industry tax credit program, production companies that spend at least $100,000 in the state earn credit: 10% off expenses of between $100,000 and $500,000; 15% for $500,000 to $1 million; and 30% off expenditures of $1 million or more.

The Connecticut Film and TV Alliance, concerned the state would lose business in the movie and TV sector after New Jersey raised its credit to 35% last year, lobbied lawmakers this session to increase the top credit to 37%. Instead, lawmakers on the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee passed legislation, H.B. 6929, making a technical change that allows producers to apply more of the credit toward their sales and use tax liability but does not raise the overall percentage of the credit.

It also adds data-reporting responsibilities for Connecticut-based production companies in an effort to better track the economic impact of the credit, which has been questioned by a wide array of advocacy groups. Connecticut’s Film and Digital Media Production Tax Credit essentially broke even last year, according to the Department of Economic and Community Development’s latest annual report. The bill was rolled into the budget implementer.

Also included in the implementer is a new tax credit program that would offer a 30% discount for certain theatrical stage productions. The incentive is intended to attract Broadway shows in development, and successful Broadway shows preparing to tour nationally, that take up residency for several weeks at one of the state’s large theaters.

Theater directors formed a coalition to advocate for the credit, arguing the influx of artistic staff, actors and technicians would drive economic activity at the hotels, businesses and restaurants in the vicinity of their theaters.

“These are demonstrably successful programs and can benefit a lot of places that otherwise struggle for economic activity,” said Tom Viertel, an award-winning Broadway producer and board chairman of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford.

Expands welfare cash assistance

The implementer contained a provision extending time limits for families receiving welfare cash assistance. The state’s 21-month lifetime limit on cash assistance was second-shortest among the 50 states. In most states, welfare cash assistance is available to families in need for up to five years.

The measure will extend the time limit for cash assistance to 36 months. It will also raise the income levels for families applying for 6-month extensions and also double asset limits that currently disqualify a family from receiving benefits to $6,000. The proposed extension will add about $10 million to the cost of the state’s Temporary Family Assistance program over the next two years, $1.2 million of which is carry-over funding from the current year. Connecticut spent $27 million on cash assistance in 2021.

Connecticut receives $266 million annually in a federal block grant for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and it contributes additional state funding to the program. In 2021, the state spent a total of $476 million in state and federal funds on TANF, about 6% of which went toward cash assistance (far below the national average of 23%). The balance of Connecticut’s TANF program funding, about $450 million, typically goes toward a range of programs such as child care, job assistance, education, parenting programs and administration costs.

CT Mirror staff reporters Erica E. Phillips, Jenna Carlesso, Katy Golvala, Ginny Monk, Jessika Harkay and Jaden Edison contributed to this report.


The state budget sets aside $6 million over two years to establish a pilot program to reimburse qualifying residents up to $20,000 for student loan payments. An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the amount as $12 million over two years.

As CT Mirror's Managing Editor Stephen helps manage and support a staff of 11 reporters.  His career in daily journalism includes 20 years at The Hartford Courant, where he served as a member of the editorial board, data editor, breaking news editor and bureau chief.  Prior to that Stephen was city editor at the Casper Star-Tribune in Casper, Wyo., and the editor of the Daily Press in Craig, Colo.  He was won many awards for editorial writing, data journalism and breaking news. While he was breaking news editor, The Courant was a named finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news for its coverage of the Sandy Hook shootings.  Busemeyer is a Koeppel Journalism Fellow at Wesleyan University, where he teaches data journalism, and he has also taught at the University of Hartford, the University of Connecticut and the University of Colorado.