McKinney, following Malloy’s lead, kicks off jobs tour of his own [Connecticut Post]

August 11, 2011

Article as it appeared in the Connecticut Post on August 11, 2011
Brian Lockhart, Staff Writer

BRIDGEPORT — It wasn’t taxes, health care costs or business regulations that were foremost on the minds of the half-dozen small manufacturers who met Wednesday with state Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield.

It was the perceived lack of support among state lawmakers for Connecticut’s vocational-technical high school system.

“You can’t cut off my pipeline of employees,” Kris Lorch, president of Alloy Engineering in Bridgeport, said.

McKinney visited Lacey Manufacturing, the first of five stops on the senator’s just announced statewide jobs tour.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, elected in November, is spending the summer visiting businesses in anticipation of a special fall legislative session on the economy. McKinney decided to hit the road as well to get policy ideas.

“We certainly have our moments when we act like Republicans and Democrats,” McKinney told the group gathered at Lacey. “This is something we need to try and work on together.”

The manufacturers were worried about Malloy’s proposal earlier in the year to shift responsibility for technical schools to municipalities. The idea was widely panned and instead the Legislature plans to study it.

“If they go over to local boards of education, they’re dead as a doornail,” Kathy Saint of Schwerdtle Stamp Co., said.

Malloy spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan said the governor, whose Stamford hometown saw its technical school shuttered a few years ago due to state budget cuts, is committed to the system. She said Malloy just approved spending $4.8 million for new vehicles, trades equipment and technology at the vo-tech schools.

“He’s also the person who decided to take the vo-tech closures off the table when the state Department of Education proposed that as part of their (budget cutting) proposal,” Flanagan said. “The question was never about his support of the vo-tech school system; like everything else right now, the question is how to pay for them.”

Manufacturers also fretted about the length of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s permit process.

“It’s crazy,” said William Manthey, of Bridgeport Fittings in Stratford.

The DEEP in 2010 analyzed the resources required to complete preliminary permit reviews within 60 days and issue decisions within the subsequent 180 days. According to the agency, only nine of 25 permitting programs met both goals and 64 new employees are needed to bring the department into total compliance with a 60/180 time frame.

McKinney, who recently met with new DEEP Commissioner Daniel Esty, said he’s “headed in the right direction on a number of fronts.”

After Wednesday’s discussion, which was also attended by Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, and Rep. Tony Hwang, R-Trumbull, McKinney said he believes the Legislature will work to create jobs in a special session.

“The question is how bold are we going to be?” he said.

Staff writer Brian Lockhart can be reached at [email protected]

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