Christine Stuart file photo
House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz (Christine Stuart file photo)

With the session ending in three weeks and a more than $900-million budget deficit staring them in the face, Democratic legislative leaders warned their caucuses that passing any big policy changes that require spending will be “almost impossible.”

Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said that advocates pushing a bill to implement paid Family and Medical Leave are working very hard to get rid of a fiscal note.

The Office of Fiscal Analysis says it could cost anywhere between $13.6 million in 2017 and $18.9 million in 2018 to operate through the Department of Labor.

“If they could find a way to do it without costing the state any money then it makes it that much easier,” Aresimowicz said. However, even with a fiscal note, it’s not impossible to get big things accomplished.

“It’s still an important policy and with the fiscal note could we still run it, sure,” Aresimowicz said. “I just think it makes it more difficult with the fiscal note.”

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, was less optimistic about paid Family and Medical Leave.

“Paid Family and Medical Leave is a heavy lift at this point,” Duff said. He knows advocates have ideas to reduce the cost to the state, but “I don’t see that happening this legislative session.”

That’s not to say every bill with a fiscal note will die.

“I don’t think you can be cut and dry on every piece of legislation,” Duff said.

However, every anything that has a cost or increases revenues is going through the Appropriations and Finance Committees. 

Another of Aresimowicz’s bills would create a public retirement fund for private sector employees.

Even though it wouldn’t require any start-up money like the paid leave bill, it could impact up to $10 million in revenue the state currently collects. That’s because suddenly a whole new group of people would have retirement accounts and would be able to deduct their contributions from their personal income tax.

“It’s a sign of the times,” Aresimowicz said.

On Thursday, the Appropriations Committee unanimously approved a bill that would require health insurers to cover 3D mammography.

Despite the overwhelming approval, the bill carries a fiscal note because it would require the service to be covered by the state employees health insurance policy.

The Office of Fiscal Analysis found it will cost between $139,000 and $572,000 in 2017 and $275,000 and $1.14 million in 2018.

Christine Stuart file photo
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (Christine Stuart file photo)

Aresimowicz said the bill may save money down the road if people aren’t having to redo mammograms. Duff agreed. He said there’s an argument to be made having an accurate mammogram the first time will actually save money.

Data published in hundreds of peer-reviewed publications found 3D mammograms reduce false positives by up to 40 percent; detect invasive cancer more accurately by 41 percent; reduce the need for a diagnostic mammogram by up to 37 percent; and strengthen the positive predictive value of a biopsy.

Aresimowicz said all that means is lawmakers will have to work a little harder this year and put the “extra effort in to alleviate the fiscal constraints.”

Is there time? The session adjourns May 4.

As far as paid Family and Medical Leave is concerned, Aresimowicz said advocates are working hard to erase as much of the fiscal note as possible and come up with alternative methods to implement the program.

“If they can do that, obviously it’s a great policy and we should pass the bill,” Aresimowicz said.

The House and the Senate Democratic caucuses hired Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research to gauge public opinion on some policy initiatives and the popularity of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. They declined to release the results of the private poll.