Despite touting jobs and the economy as their top priority throughout the 2011 legislative session, Republican lawmakers said the fact Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will be calling them back for a special session on jobs in September is proof they did little, if anything, for businesses.
But Malloy and Democratic lawmakers, who held separate press conferences Thursday, said the two-year, $40.11 billion budget helps stabilize the state’s finances and will help communities avoid having to raise property taxes — the biggest tax burden for many small and mid-sized businesses.
“This is an ongoing challenge you can’t rest in place,” Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said at a press conference on the Bloomfield town green. “We did a lot of good things in terms of jobs and the economy, but quite frankly it’s not enough given what we face in Connecticut.”
By calling the legislature back for a special session Williams said the governor was telling them “Don’t sit back and rest on your laurels. Don’t think the problem is solved, we’ve got more to do.”
House Speaker Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said he just spoke with a man this morning who is very excited about the new jobs he will create with the legislature’s omnibus energy bill and the tax credits included in it. He said the fact that it will reduce electricity costs for businesses will also aid them in freeing up some capital.
Donovan also cited the expansion of the University of Connecticut Health Center as an initiative that will help create jobs in the state, both in the short term through construction and in the long term with high paying, bioscience jobs.
However, even the Connecticut Business and Industry Association described the session as disappointing.
“It’s discouraging that the concerns of Connecticut residents and employers regarding jobs were not addressed during this legislative session,” said John R. Rathgeber, president and CEO of CBIA. “Both clearly identified the economy and jobs as their top priorities, but the legislature failed to put us on a path that would improve Connecticut’s ability to attract and retain jobs.”
Instead, the General Assembly passed a $2.6 billion tax hike, the biggest in Connecticut history, which significantly hurts small and mid-sized businesses.
Malloy dismissed the characterization and said “CBIA tends to see any glass as half empty even when it‘s mostly filled.“
“I think that they have a business model that requires they warn people of threats that don’t exist and are very good at it,“ Malloy said.
Malloy, who will be touring the state with Department of Economic Development Commissioner Catherine Smith over the next few weeks and months, said this budget makes substantial down payments on job creation specifically with the expansion of University of Connecticut Health Center, creation of the Bradley Airport Authority, and the “first five” initiative.
The “first five” initiative allows Smith to offer special incentives to the first five businesses that can each bring a minimum of 200 new, full-time jobs to the state within two years. It passed the legislature with bipartisan support.
But Republican lawmakers said warned that more companies are leaving the state because of the tax increases and legislative mandates like paid sick days.
“A successful trucking company in Branford was going to increase employment and now they’re moving out,” said Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield. “The CEO said paid sick leave was the last straw.”
But it’s not the only company thinking about exiting the state.
“Every day you read about businesses leaving the state of Connecticut,” said House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk.
At the beginning of the legislative session Cafero admitted Malloy seemed to be a very different kind of governor.
“He was critical of this legislature and its spending habits, its gimmicks, the recklessness it went about its business with,” Cafero said. “Then he came out with his budget and his budget is his vision for the state of Connecticut.”
That budget included the biggest increase in the state’s history.
Cafero said at that point “his actions didn’t jibe with his rhetoric.”
He argued that it wasn’t just one party rule, but one branch of government that dominated this legislative session. He said the governor got everything he wanted.
But Malloy didn’t get everything he wanted. He didn’t get the expanded rescission authority he had requested as part of his budget package. Malloy didn’t want to have to return to the legislature and ask permission to cut a certain percentage of the budget.
Currently the governor has the authority to cut five percent of an appropriation and three percent of any fund in a fiscal crisis.
Malloy said he thinks their decision not to increase rescissionary rights was based on their experience with past administrations. Should mid-term adjustments be necessary lawmakers want to be at the table.
“I’ll work with them,” Malloy said.
Jaimi Welch contributed to this report.