Where are all the Jobs?

September 15, 2011

For 22 months the people of Connecticut have been working their way through a recession. The months have been filled with high unemployment, more than 119,000 lost jobs, and now increased taxes on every business and family.

I came into my first term as state senator with job creation as my number priority and I had hoped Governor Malloy would do the same. The Governor had promised that ‘Connecticut is open for business,’ but with each passing bill during the 2011 legislative session, it become evident that jobs were not his priority. Instead, the Governor and his Democratic Majority passed and implemented a budget that imposes the largest tax increase in history, increased spending by nearly $1 billion dollars, and makes promises to state unions that are unaffordable in the long-term. Just imagine, if the Governor put as much time and effort into saving private sector jobs as he did voting and re-voting to save state employee jobs, maybe our state’s job outlook would be healthier. Unfortunately, Connecticut remains one of the lowest in the nation in job creation.

To better focus in on job creation in our community and our area of the state, I have taken the time to tour many local companies, to speak with employers and workers and to hear what is most important to them. The experience was very informative and demonstrated that Connecticut can compete in the new global economy if given the opportunity and positive job environment. Currently our electric rates remain among the highest in the nation, Fairfield County continues to face transportation problems and issues, and there are historic new taxes and regulations that all work to chase families and jobs out of state.

What I heard on my job tour was impressive. Both workers and employers want relief from the Governor’s historic tax increase that takes money out of the family budget and our economy. Both workers and employers want increased education and skill development in vocational careers. Both workers and employers want an environment that fosters innovative creativity to unlock Connecticut’s entrepreneurial spirit.

We must create the positive job environment by reducing the cost of doing business in Connecticut. Employers can’t continue to withstand the financial consequences of the increasing size and cost of our state government. Costly bureaucratic red tape, increased state regulation for the sake of regulation, new mandates like paid sick leave and an unwillingness to reduce the size and scope of government all demonstrate that our state government is a costly special interest.

Realizing that the 2011 legislative session did little to create jobs in Connecticut, the General Assembly will convene a “jobs” special session later this fall. I believe it is important that we begin looking at policies to support Connecticut employers to compete in a global market. If the state is going to be successful, we need to start with our educational system. Vo-Tech schools and our community colleges need state assistance to better expand programs that build the skills associated with next generation technology, hi-tech manufacturing or bioscience. By building a skilled workforce Connecticut will maintain the human capital and jobs that our current employers need to remain globally competitive.

As we build in that area, the state must evaluate itself to determine what it can do better to incentivize job growth. First, it must look to become more effective at providing the same or better services at a lower cost to the taxpayer. Next, it must reduce time consuming bureaucratic red tape and unnecessary regulation. The state must also reduce taxes on families and offer incentives to all employers. It is crucial to expand upon the good initiatives that have been put into motion for our larger companies. Policies like the ‘First Five initiative’ should, however, also encompass small businesses. Here in Connecticut, our small business supply nearly 80 percent of the jobs we all rely on, making it increasingly important that they receive proper support.

If we want Connecticut workers and employers to remain a part of our economy, more needs to be done in their defense. The current costs, new taxes and increased regulations only slow or prohibit growth, meaning that no new jobs are created, and in fact, we continue to lose jobs. During my first session I advocated for jobs and this fall I will continue my efforts to put Connecticut back to work. It is my hope that we emerge from the special session with a proactive jobs plan and one that reduces the swelling unemployment rates and tax burdens we have all coped with for too long.