Personal Finance

When people without health insurance get around to filing their taxes this year, they may find that they have to pay a penalty. State officials are working on a fix. 

The Affordable Care Act mandates that everyone have insurance or face a fine. Last year was the first year the penalty applied, but some people may not know they owe it until they prepare their 2014 taxes -- and it's already too late to sign up for health insurance for 2015.

After Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Kathy Hanlon's life crumbled. Her Long Beach, N.Y., home had no electricity, her family was traumatized and one of her sons was getting sick. On top of that, there was the bureaucratic maze of flood insurance.

"I cried many times because I was so angry when I got off the phone with the insurance company," Hanlon says. "It was demeaning. We had to send them things repeatedly. We had to wait for phone calls. We had to wait for people to come visit the house."

A Bennington, Vermont manufacturing plant is closing, putting 62 people out of work.

Stephan Ridgway / Creative Commons

Governor Dannel Malloy is proposing paying less to bury the poor. 

Malloy told legislators in his budget address that balancing the budget means hard choices. "The vast majority of these cuts are choices that, under ideal circumstances, Connecticut would not have to make," he said.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Governor Dannel Malloy released the final details of his new two-year state budget on Wednesday. 

The Democrat has already warned that the budget is going to be “tough,” but he hopes it will provide relief to the state’s middle class with a slight state sales tax reduction. Republicans have been critical of his additional plan to eliminate the an exemption to the sales tax on up to $50.00 of clothing.

The new fiscal year beginning July 1 is predicted to face a $1 billion deficit. The following budget year is also facing a projected $1 billion in the red. 

On WNPR's Where We Live, Keith Phaneuf of The Connecticut Mirror called the governor's budget "a tired exercise in fiscal semantics." Promised cuts aren't coming, he said, and the governor is creating "a new definition of a tax hike" while still trying to say he "didn't really increase taxes." 

Denise Chan / Creative Commons

White House officials are worried that proposed legislation from House Republicans would transfer money from poor school districts to wealthy ones. But this is already happening across the country after changes made under the current administration.

The funding program called Title I was created to give federal money to the poorest schools in the country, yet, for at least the last two years, wealthy schools have been getting Title I cash.

Mixed Bag for Gov. Malloy's Budget Proposal

Feb 17, 2015
Sage Ross / Creative Commons

In preparation for his two year state budget proposal, Governor Dannel Malloy has warned Connecticut residents the budget is "tough."

During an interview with WFSB-TV's "Face the State" broadcast on Sunday, Malloy said he will be proposing to reduce the state sales tax from 6.35 percent to 6.2 percent on November 1, then dropping it to 5.95 percent by 2017.

Rob.Wall, creative commons

If you’re a poor, black, and disabled student, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll be suspended, expelled, or arrested, especially if you live in an urban area.

A new study by Connecticut Voices for Children found that while student arrests and expulsions have declined across the state, there are still high numbers of poor students, minorities, and students with disabilities being arrested or expelled.

What's most alarming, the study found, is that poor kids were arrested nearly 23 times more often than their wealthy peers. 

LDProd/iStock / Thinkstock

Anthem announced that customers will be able to sign up for credit monitoring services starting Friday.

Responding to a letter sent Tuesday by Connecticut’s attorney general, the health insurer said anyone who had a health plan with them in the last ten years will be allowed to access the protection. 

Anyone who has pulled up to a gas station this winter knows oil prices have fallen — down roughly 50 percent since June.

But it's not just oil. Prices for many commodities — grains, metals and other bulk products — have been plunging too.

Here are a few of the changes since many prices peaked in recent years:

- Copper is $2.59 a pound, down from $4.50 in 2011.

Creative Commons

Owners and managers of Connecticut car dealerships are urging state lawmakers to abandon legislation that would allow an electric car maker to sell vehicles directly to consumers.

About 70 auto dealers were at the state Capitol on Wednesday meeting with legislators to protest a bill benefiting Tesla Motors. Current state law prevents car manufacturers from selling their cars to consumers.

A bill before the legislature's Transportation Committee would make an exception for Tesla. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Connecticut’s Attorney General has joined with nine other states to ask health insurer Anthem to speed up its plan to protect consumers in the wake of what may be the nation’s biggest-ever data breach.

George Jepsen sent a letter to Anthem's CEO on behalf of attorneys general from Rhode Island, Maine, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and several other states, calling on Anthem to step up its response to its customers.

Eighty million people, including more than a million in Connecticut, may have been affected by the cyber hack, and Anthem initially said it will provide two years of credit monitoring for customers.

Connecticut Senate Republicans

Connecticut's Republican legislators proposed a 30-year, $37.4 billion plan to fund a proposed overhaul of the state's transportation system on Tuesday. They'd like to do it without resurrecting tolls.

The announcement comes a week before Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy will present his two-year budget and transportation initiative.

Both Senate and House Republicans proposed dedicating a set amount of bonds to be used solely for transportation projects, starting with $441.5 million in fiscal year 2016. That would complement the approximate $600 million in bonding already spent annually for transportation.

A huge trove of leaked documents is shedding new light on the secretive Swiss banking industry.

The documents were downloaded by a former computer security expert at the giant bank HSBC, and they were released over the weekend by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Javier Villa has worked at his family's used car dealership in San Juan, Puerto Rico, ever since he finished high school.

Villa, 35, always assumed the insurance plan he had through work would take care of him and his family. But a couple years ago, he ran into a problem.

He was taking a shower one morning when he noticed a lump on the side of his throat. "Very big, like maybe a tennis ball," he says.

CT-N

More than a million people in Connecticut are potentially at risk from the massive data breach at health insurer Anthem. The company is the biggest insurer in the state, and also covers 200,000 state employees and retirees. 

Governor Dannel Malloy said Thursday he’s pushed Anthem to provide two years of credit monitoring for everyone affected. But he said Anthem customers should also take steps to protect themselves.

"Monitor your accounts, look for suspicious activity," Malloy appealed. "The criminals who stole this information may look to open up new lines of credit, steal tax refunds, obtain new credit cards or take other fraudulent actions, so be alert."

Ben Sheldon / Creative Commons

Governor Dannel Malloy has proposed major improvements to Connecticut's transportation infrastructure.

In the past, Malloy argued that the state gas tax could cover such costs, but the rise in fuel-efficient cars has meant a decline in revenue. How to fund transportation projects remains a question.

Speaking on WNPR's Where We Live, Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey said the gas tax is unfair to Connecticut residents.

When President Obama meets with House Democrats tonight during their retreat in Philadelphia, officials say he'll lay out the details of his budget proposal, which will include reversal of large cuts to federal spending instituted in 2013.

With wages still stuck for many Americans, the big drop in gasoline prices is the equivalent of an unexpected cash bonus for the nation's drivers.

The average American household is expected to save $750 this year from lower gas prices, according to the Energy Department.

But Thomas Kinnaman, an economist at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., says it's instructive to look beyond the word "average."

Ricky Aponte / Creative Commons

More young people are moving to the heart of cities, according to a report from think tank City Observatory. This includes cities that we usually think of as “economically troubled,” like Buffalo, Cleveland, and, yes, even Hartford. Some of these cities have been losing their overall population, but gaining in their numbers of college graduates in their 20s and 30s.

Cliff / Creative Commons

Connecticut’s urban areas remain among of the most economically productive areas in the world, even while they struggle to recover from the great recession. In fact a new study from the Brookings Institution pegs Hartford as having the second highest economic output in the country, and the fourth highest in the world.

The Global Metro Monitor takes the economic temperature of 300 major cities around the world. Greater Hartford lies fourth in the world in terms of gross domestic product per capita, a measure of how much economic value is produced compared to the size of a metro area, including corporate profits as well as personal incomes. Only Zurich, Oslo and San Jose rank higher. Bridgeport, whose metro area include Fairfield County, lies eighth.

But another story is told by the most recent data on recovery from 2014. 

NPR and ProPublica have been reporting about nonprofit hospitals that seize the wages of lower-income and working-class patients. Now, Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says hospitals could be breaking the law by suing these patients and docking their pay. And he wants some answers.

ISO-New England

New England's electricity grid operator said natural gas pipeline bottlenecks and retirement of aging power plants could put pressure on the price of energy.

Creative Commons

President Obama courted controversy with his own party in the State of the Union by again calling for a key Asian trade deal to be fast-tracked.

The Trans Pacific Partnership is opposed by some senior Democrats, who believe it will lead to a loss of jobs here. 

Obama is asking to be given the authority to negotiate the deal without congressional oversight. Connecticut’s Third District Representative Rosa DeLauro said that’s not acceptable.

Are you thinking about tax day yet? Your friendly neighborhood tax preparer is. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen declared this tax season one of the most complicated ever, partly because this is the first year that the Affordable Care Act will show up on your tax form.

Tax preparers from coast to coast are trying to get ready. Sue Ellen Smith manages an H&R Block office in San Francisco, and she is expecting things to get busy soon.

"This year taxes and health care intersect in a brand-new way," Smith says.

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