2018 Candidate Questionnaire
Ellen Russell Beatty
Democrat – 119th House District (Milford, Orange)
BACKGROUND: The Alliance represents community nonprofits across Connecticut that serve over 500,000 people, employ 198,000 and spend $29 billion annually in Connecticut’s economy. Nonprofits contribute to our state’s communities, economy and quality of life; they support the developmentally disabled, feed the hungry, provide behavioral health and substance abuse treatment, and help prisoners re-enter their communities. Nonprofits also enrich the state through art and culture — providing visual arts and performances and preserving our state’s historical landmarks.
QUESTION: What has been your experience with nonprofits in your community?
I served as the Chairperson of the Board of Visiting Nurse South Central Connecticut (VNA/SCC) and served as the professional liaison during successful review by the CHAP Community Health Accreditation Program. My association with the nonprofit sector is extensive and long standing since my days as Professor of Nursing. I was responsible for supervision of Yale graduate students in their clinical placements serving clients within the agency. I then became active in the organization serving in many capacities on the board culminating with a three-term chairmanship. Currently, I am a member of the board of directors of Bridges Health Care Inc. with headquarters in Milford, CT.
BACKGROUND: Community services for people in need are funded by state government through contracts, grants, and the Medicaid. At least half of the state budget comprises “fixed costs” that the state must pay – for example, post-employment obligations and bonded indebtedness. The “fixed” portion of the budget increases each year. Cuts in the portion of the budget that remains have caused significant reductions in funding for nonprofits and harm to the people they serve. When faced with cuts, nonprofits cannot raise taxes or prices, forcing them to cut services, lay-off employees or close programs. This is a model that cannot sustain itself – and it puts Connecticut’s quality of life at risk. The Alliance has argued that nonprofit services should be treated as if they are “fixed costs.”
QUESTION: If elected, how will you prioritize providing services to Connecticut’s most vulnerable residents? In the face of budget constraints, what changes will you fight for to ensure adequate funding for these services?
I support and have advocated for sustainable services to Connecticut’s residents. I was part of a successful lobbying effort to reinstate Medicaid funding for non-profits during a time when there was retroactive cutting carried out based on not clearly defined criteria. I joined with other community health care providers to protect home health services for the most vulnerable. For the VNA/SCC organization, the last year of my board leadership, the agency accomplished 60,000 home visits ( including all services; nursing, physical therapy, social work, occupational therapy, home health aides/attendants). Many of the services were provided to those who were elderly, financially marginalized, and homebound. If we were not able to serve this population, who would? We had the fight of our lives to have Medicaid funding reestablished to serve those most in need. The proprietary home care agencies would serve the privately well insured and leave those Medicaid and/or Medicare clients without service since the reimbursement levels were inadequate. I also successfully lobbied in Washington D.C, along with leaders from Hospice, to protect intended (2009) Medicare and Medicare cuts of $46 billion. All of this is being discussed at the national level once again! Cuts to Medicaid and Medicare translate directly to cuts in services provided by agencies.
BACKGROUND: Nonprofits are exempt from paying taxes by state and federal law. Nonprofits do not pay federal and state corporate income taxes for their charitable activities, donations to nonprofits are tax deductible, and nonprofits are exempt from Connecticut’s sales tax and local property taxes. Recently, there have been efforts at all levels of government to weaken the tax-exempt status of nonprofits, most notably at the local level.
QUESTION: Do you support nonprofit tax exemptions? Why or why not? Would you support legislation to protect or clarify tax exemptions for nonprofits? Why or why not?
Yes, I support nonprofit tax exemptions. I do believe in scrutiny of non-profit status to protect legitimate agencies that benefit from tax exempt status. Many could not operate without such protection and cuts to vulnerable people would be the result. I do support a standard, evidence-based approach to review of tax-exempt status so that organizations, corporations cannot benefit unfairly from exemption status designed to level the playing field. One reason that I am running for office is to help develop policies and standards for all contracts and agreements. Connecticut can do better in protecting legitimate and necessary agencies. My intent is to help not hinder or weaken tax exempt status.
BACKGROUND: Even though community nonprofits deliver more than 90% of residential services to people with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) and 60% of clients served by Local Mental Health Authorities in Connecticut, the State continues to operate some of these services itself, with state-operated facilities staffed by state employees. The State and nonprofits provide the same services, but nonprofits do so at half of the cost. For example, the average annual cost to serve an individual with I/DD living in a state-operated group home is $265,000. The cost for a community nonprofit to provide the same service is just $113,000. This means that government funding can serve more people if those services are provided by nonprofits.
QUESTION: If elected, would you support converting more state-operated services to the nonprofit sector? If not, how would you ensure that state funding is able to help more people?
I do not think that this is a binary choice of choosing state services versus non-profit services. This is an oppositional argument that camouflages the very real, complex issues of underfunding of essential services. Elected officials must develop sustainable funding for essential services. It is temporary and flawed to count on paying lower wages and fewer benefits to decrease costs of providing services. Low wage workers in nonprofit agencies should also be a concern for all of us. I support an evidence-based approach to policy making, legislation and decision making. We now have the sophisticated, financial software to make predictive projections on cost savings. Legislators should be held accountable to demonstrate how proposals, alterations in programs or new service models actually reap projected savings. I support a longer-term approach to sustainable funding of essential services in Connecticut. This will be done by well-informed thinking with all stakeholders included with an examination of outcomes that best serves the people.
BACKGROUND: The nonprofit arts and culture community enhances Connecticut’s quality of life. The arts make our communities better places to live and work – they create jobs, generate revenue, and are key considerations when families and businesses are thinking of locating in our state. A recent study found that Connecticut’s nonprofit arts and culture sector generates $797 million in annual economic activity for the state, supporting over 23,000 jobs and generating $72 million in local and state tax revenue.
QUESTION: How do your plans to grow Connecticut’s economy include our arts and cultural offerings?
I think that the statement above says it all. Arts are an essential component of what drives the economy and well being of our state. We should begin to think of the arts as another essential part of our commitment to a better and fuller opportunity for Connecticut’s children and the future. I do think that there is a way, even in times of financial retrenchment, to support and sustain the arts. I think that Connecticut can benchmark with other areas of the country and the world that view support for the arts as an essential service for the good of all people. I would welcome investment in the tourism industry that will also drive a more robust economy and attract young people to CT. Recent experiments with public/private partnerships are a sign of forward thinking. I support the idea of a designated revenue stream that will really be an investment rather than a cost in the long run. This designated revenue can be protected so that it is not raided for the general fund in times of crisis. The payback for a small investment in support of the arts will have a huge payback in the near future.
The Connecticut Community Nonprofit Alliance (The Alliance) is Connecticut’s statewide association of community nonprofits. Our members deliver essential services to more than half a million people each year and employ almost 14% of Connecticut’s workforce. To inform nonprofit professionals, staff, clients and volunteers, The Alliance is asking candidates to complete this short five-question document. Completed will be published on our website, sent to our network of thousands of CT voters, and included at our Annual Conference.