The 2017 legislative session convened on January 4th and adjourned on June 7th. As predicted, the influx of so many new legislators, a new power-sharing arrangement in the Senate, and the state’s ongoing fiscal woes, made this year’s regular session challenging! Unfortunately, it also proved to be less productive than previous years, with the legislature failing to adopt a 2-year state budget by adjournment. In prior years when budgets were not adopted by the end of the regular session, a special session was convened and the budget was approved by the start of the fiscal year on July 1. This year has definitely been the exception – we’re still without a budget in the waning days of September!
During both the regular session and this prolonged special session, our priorities have been and continue to be focused in three areas:
- Increase the pace of statewide farmland protection efforts and maximize state and federal investment in farmland preservation programs
- Advocate for funding and staff resources needed for the Department of Agriculture to provide critical programs and support to Connecticut farmers and farm businesses
- Identify means to expand farmland access and affordability and serve as a resource for lawmakers about agricultural viability issues
There have been numerous budget proposals since the Governor first presented his two-year budget in February. Some proposals would have eliminated the Department of Agriculture altogether while other budgets proposed diverting 100% of those funds intended for the Community Investment Account into the General Fund. The most recent budget proposal, passed by both the House and Senate and subsequently vetoed by the Governor, maintained a stand-alone Department of Agriculture and kept the Community Investment Act funds in place (with the exception of how funds are disbursed to CT dairy farmers.)
While it’s unclear when a final budget will become law and what it will ultimately look like, Working Lands Alliance is grateful to the entire legislature as well as the Governor for their recognition of the importance of both CT agriculture and our farmland protection programs. Stay tuned…