Finally, a Jobs Bill

October 27, 2011

This week, for the first time this year, the Governor and his majority put forward a jobs bill. Despite the fact we all campaigned last year to put Connecticut back to work, it took almost eleven months for our General Assembly to deal with the all important work of creating jobs. Since I wrote about jobs in September, the Governor proposed another very costly and uncertain deal to create a bioscience industry in our state. During the legislative session, the General Assembly approved an $864 million expansion of the UConn Health Center which we were told was necessary to bring bioscience to Connecticut. Now, we are being asked to pay even more. The Governor’s proposal would give Jackson Laboratory, a private non-profit corporation, $291 million to build the JAX Genomic Medicine bioscience center and the real estate to go with it. In exchange, Jackson Laboratory promises to provide 320 jobs in 10 years. That’s right, $291 million for only 320 jobs. And, not for a decade! Compare that to the news that NBC Sports will be bringing up to 400 jobs to Stamford in return for a much smaller incentive package worth between $25 million and $50 million.

During the summer, I went on a jobs tour visiting many local companies to meet with workers and employers to hear what is most important to them. I also listened to individuals and families at our local stores. The message was clear and consistent: workers want training, re-employment skills, apprenticeships and skill development; employers need reduced red-tape, regulation reform and loans to help meet their payroll; and families want relief from the Governor’s historic tax increase that takes money out of the family budget and our economy.

Based on these conversations, rather than spending so much on Jackson and yielding so little in the way of jobs, we need to focus on the jobs that Connecticut’s middle class families are demanding. Let’s start by looking at the jobs already here and build on those. Connecticut’s defense industry is one of the best and one of the most successful. From Sikorsky Aircraft to Electric Boat to Pratt & Whitney and many of the vendors who do business with them, our state is home to many employers that provide solid wages to middle class families. To keep and create more jobs like these we need to invest in one of our most precious economic resources, our workers and job creators.

First, we need to improve our vocational technical schools and community colleges where students learn the technical skills and trades needed to create a highly skilled and educated work force. Our vo-tech schools and community colleges are outdated. We need to invest to update machinery and tools to teach students about modern manufacturing processes and educated our workers on next generation technology and hi-tech manufacturing. In addition, our state government must build partnerships between vo-tech schools and local employers to create apprenticeship programs that give our future workers the opportunity at “hands on” training, re-training and skill development.

Next, the state is the new special interest that is unwilling to reduce its size or the scope of its operations. To make it easier to create a job, the state must be evaluated to determine what it can do better to incentivize job growth. It must become more effective at providing the same or better services at a lower cost to the taxpayer. It must find better ways to invest in its transportation systems and improve the state’s infrastructure. It must reduce time consuming red-tape and reform the complex maze of regulation and permitting that all chase jobs and families out of our state.

Lastly, nearly 80% of Connecticut jobs are created by small business and is where most new jobs will be created. Many small employers say they have the work, but don’t have the money to meet the payroll to hire more workers because banks are not lending. Government can fill this role by creating a loan program with proper safeguard for small business to obtain the working capital to meet payroll and short-term projects that hire new workers.

Our people need jobs to support their families now, not in ten years. As your Senator I listened to your common sense suggestions to put Connecticut back to work. Like you, I don’t believe we need to gamble with multi-million dollar handouts on the chance that a new industry will create jobs. That’s a heavy bet for little rewards and no guarantees. We need common sense solutions for middle class working families. It may seem simple, but it certainly makes sense.