GOP urban agenda touts loans for small businesses [Rep-Am]

March 13, 2015

Article as it appeared in the REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

HARTFORD — While most Republican lawmakers come from suburbs and small towns, Senate Republicans are trying to show that the well-being of Connecticut cities is also a top GOP priority.

The Senate Republicans released an urban agenda Thursday that proposes a loan program targeting small businesses in cities. It also includes tax credits encouraging hiring and development of housing, commercial mixed uses in city centers, changes to juvenile sentencing guidelines to conform with a U.S. Supreme Court decision, and tweaking criminal justice reforms that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is proposing.

This move comes after the 15-member caucus created a director of urban affairs. Avery J. Gaddis of Waterbury was hired to fill the new position.

“We firmly believe that the strength of our state depends on the strength of our cities,” said Senate Minority Leader Leonard A. Fasano, R-North Haven.

SEN. ROBERT J. KANE, R-Watertown, said the economic well-being of the 10 towns of his district is tied to the city of Waterbury.

“I represent towns surrounding Waterbury. If Waterbury is not successful, then my towns are not successful,” Kane said. “So, we need a strong city, a strong base for all the suburban communities to survive. I was born and raised in Waterbury. I have a business in Waterbury. I want to see it succeed because I see myself as part of the Greater Waterbury delegation.”

Fasano said Senate Republicans are seeking to explore new ways to help cities and surrounding communities flourish.

One big-city Democrat questioned the commitment of Republican lawmakers to cities and policies that benefit city dwellers.

“It’s nice that Republicans have finally noticed that there are cities in Connecticut,” said Sen. Ed Gomes, D-Bridgeport.

While the governor’s office is willing to hear Senate Republicans out, the agenda outlined Thursday did not appear to propose anything new in the administration’s eyes.

“As the governor said, no one party has a monopoly on good ideas and we look forward to listening. With that said, many of these proposals resemble things that we have already done,” said Devon Puglia, a Malloy spokesman.

The Senate Republicans are proposing to create a new loan program targeting small start-up businesses.

“I think it is about allowing entrepreneurs the opportunity to grow a business,” Kane said.

Instead of the state government, the loans would be provided through community banks. Selected start-ups would be eligible for loans ranging from $10,000 to $50,000.

UNDER THE PROPOSED CT Fast Funds program, the state would guarantee up to 70 percent of the loans that community banks make to so-called microbusinesses.

Senate Republicans propose to divert $3 million to $5 million from the Small Business Express Program to finance this new program.

The Small Business Express program provides loans and grants for capital investment and hiring to state-based businesses and small manufacturers.

Malloy is proposing to revise the program to direct more assistance to businesses in the state’s cities.

Senate Republicans are also proposing a pilot program for providing tax credits to developers and investors for constructing new buildings or converting vacant buildings in city centers for housing, commercial use and mixed uses

They are also proposing to revive the Job Expansion Tax Credit.

Businesses would receive credits of $500 or $900 a month for every full-time job created.

Malloy is proposing a series of criminal justice proposals aimed at reducing sentences for nonviolent offenders and assisting ex-offenders to obtain education, employment and housing.

Senate Republicans are amenable to the governor’s ideas, with some changes. They also support revising juvenile sentencing laws in response to recent U.S. Supreme Court opinions.