The recently passed jobs legislation could be the trick needed to turn around what’s been a decidedly ghoulish economy in the Nutmeg State. And even sweeter was the display of bi-partisanship.
“It’s a misnomer to say that all politics is gridlocked and partisan,” . “We do get along and we do move along in a bipartisan fashion. We’re not Washington.”
The bipartisan legislation passed last week aims to make Connecticut more business friendly and more competitive. Among other things the bill will streamline the permitting process, set aside $25 million in startup company loans, replenish the manufacturing assistance act with $340 million over the next two years and encourage the hiring of veterans.
Duff said he was particularly pleased about the regulatory reform. While talk of tax breaks and incentives can be exciting, a burdensome permitting process is a turn off.
“Sometimes the least sexy thing turns out to be the most important,” Duff said.
House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., a Republican representing Norwalk in the 142nd House District said the bill “proves that when there is a free and open exchange of ideas across the political aisle we can do good things that are in the best interests of all of Connecticut.”
According to the Office of Fiscal Analysis the total bonding for the package is $626 million.
“One thing I don’t like about the bill is its price tag,” said state Sen. L. Scott Frantz, a Republican representing Greenwich, New Canaan and Stamford in the 36th Senate District. “It’s just too much money. I think $250 million would have been a better price tag.”
The bill didn’t address the paid sick leave mandate, or slash size of state government, doesn’t eliminate defined pension benefit for new state employees, and won’t reduce taxes.
However, Frantz said he likes that the bill included help for small businesses.
The bill creates a Small Business Express Package, which includes $180 million to support small business growth. Starting in 2013 the $250 a year business tax will cover two years instead of one
State Sen. Carlo Leone, a Democrat representing Stamford and Darien in the 27th Senate District hailed the job creation tax credits, which will provide $500 a month per new hire for employers. The credit increases to $900 a month if the individual hired is a military veteran, unemployed or disabled.
Companies with fewer than 50 employees get the credit after their first new hire. Companies with 50-100 employees must first hire five new workers before qualifying for the credit. Companies with more than 100 employees must first hire 10 workers.
The jobs package also includes $20 million for the Step Up program, to encourage businesses to add employees in new areas by subsidizing the cost of those posts for up to six months. It contains $20 million for brownfield remediation and $10 million to help nonprofit social service providers and local housing authorities install fuel-efficient equipment.
“Connecticut can’t overcome the world wide recession, but we can position ourselves to make it a good place to do business,” Duff said. “We’re not going to make the .10 cent widget, those jobs have gone down south and to China. But we have a highly educated and highly skilled workforce.”
STATE OF CIVIC HEALTH
Maybe it’s time to bring back Election Day Cake.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill told Capitol DisPatch the time has come to once again fete Election Day. Indeed once upon a time Americans celebrated Election Day with cakes and parades. Granted that was in the 1800s, but the point is people don’t vote or register to vote like they should.
Merrill recently met with Kristen Campbell of the National Conference on Citizenship, NCoC, Community Representatives and Civics Teachers to gauge Connecticut’s Civic Health. The upshot was simple: government must do a better job reaching out to citizens and getting people involved in community leadership.
“People need to know the benefits of getting involved in their communities and why it is important if we are to preserve our high quality of life,” Merrill said.
Connecticut scored relatively high when it comes to voter registration and voter turnout. But only two-thirds of eligible voters register.
“That means one-third of people don’t even register,” Merrill said. “That’s a very high number and we don’t really talk about it. That’s the first thing that’s very striking.”
There’s no question voting needs to become more accessible, Duff said.
“But we also have to inspire young people to be a part of the process,” Duff said.
The second thing that stood out was the portion of young people who don’t vote.
“The gaps between younger and older people are disturbing,” Merrill said.
To change that Merrill wants same day registration, on-line registration and early voting.
Frantz said he’d support simplifying voter registration, but not at the risk of making the process vulnerable to voter fraud.
The state ranked 17th for voter turnout in 2010; 49.3 percent of eligible voters went to the polls. That’s compared with 45.5 percent nationwide.
Interestingly, women tend to participate more than men in school, neighborhood or community associations, 18.1 percent compared with 10.7 percent. While men lean more toward civic associations, 9.7 percent compared with 7.7 percent.
Informed citizens are involved citizens. In Connecticut 54.7 percent read the newspaper daily and 71.7 percent watch television news. However, gone are the days of civics lessons.
“I think it’s been squeezed out of the curriculum,” Merrill said. “I’m ready to say we should test it. We used to have an 8th grade Constitution test and if you couldn’t pass it, you couldn’t get out of the 8th grade. I’m not a big testing fan, but if you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em.”
A link to the 2011 Connecticut Civic Health Index and executive summary can be found online on the website of the National Conference on Citizenship at http://ncoc.net/CTCHI where the public can view civic health indices from other states and compare Connecticut’s results to national and state-by-state surveys. The report is also available on the Secretary of the State’s website www.sots.ct.gov
About this column: Posted every Monday morning, "Capitol DisPatch: CT" examines the bills, issues and activities facing Fairfield County's representatives in the Connecticut General Assembly in Hartford.