Hartford area faith leaders pushed Gov. Dannel P. Malloy Monday to include an urban focused jobs plan as part of the Oct. 26 special session agenda, but Malloy was unable to commit to any of their suggestions.
“In a broad picture some of those are included, in a narrow picture I don’t necessarily think any of those are included,” Malloy told the small group gathered at Hartford Communities that Care Inc.
“You’re asking specifically do I think the one day special session that we’re trying to drive on a bipartisan basis is going to address everything you want? The answer is I don’t think it will,” Malloy said.
He said there’s a chance some of the suggestions will be addressed without legislation through his administration or it can wait until the regular session which starts in February.
“We’re not talking about specific funding for specific agencies or anything else. And the funding we’re talking about is by in large on a capital basis not an operating basis,” Malloy said explaining there’s not room to spend money in a budget that’s $1 million below the constitutional spending cap.
He said he believes he can get the Department of Economic and Community Development to work more closely with the Department of Labor on job training, which seems to be the underpinning of what the group was suggesting. He said he recognizes that urban unemployment is one of the state’s larger problems and far exceeds the 9.1 percent unemployment rate for the state.
“There is no room. We actually are within $1 million of our spending cap. We know that some of are agencies specifically associated with social services and Medicaid for young adults who are unemployed we are already projecting a $15 million overrun in that department,” Malloy said.
Rev. Joshua Pawelek, president of the Greater Hartford Interfaith Coalition for Equality and Justice, said everyone in the room could testify to the unemployment rate, especially in North Hartford, and how it’s devastating families, and communities.
“Is there room for a specific urban core jobs strategy moving forward?” Pawlek asked.
“I think there’s room for an urban core. I think in reality there have been the pieces of that over a long period of time,” Malloy said. “What I think I hear you saying is there’s been a lack of coordination and focus and I’m agreeing with you and that’s already being addressed by a much more activist labor department.”
Malloy said he has made it clear in conversations with members of the building trades that the status quo and the low representation of minorities in those trades is unacceptable.
But Stephen Camp of Faith Congregational Church in Hartford said he’s going to continue pushing the governor.
“I would really love to have my governor say to this state, in an address, a televised address, so folks in this neighborhood could hear it that it is a priority. That urban jobs is a priority for this governor,” Camp told Malloy.
He said he wants to hear the governor say, “Black and brown folks are going to get some work.”
“Right now we hear a lot of stuff, but there isn’t that focus that we really feel as though that somebody at the Capitol in Hartford is really working for us,” Camp said.
Malloy replied that he has said that. “I’ve said that with TV cameras and radios. “What then gets repeated I can’t guarantee,” Malloy said.
He said he had a public discussion in New Britain when he visited the Jobs Tunnel program working on the future site of the New Britain Police Department.
“I specifically quizzed people in that program about where they came from,“ Malloy said. “I know that we have an urban unemployment issue, it’s one of the reasons why in balancing the budget we did our utmost, not to cut where the cuts have taken place pretty aggressively over the past couple of years, specifically in social services. And secondly not to cut local government.”
Malloy said even with the “largest per capita deficit in the nation” he was able to get a robust Earned Income Tax Credit passed. But it’s not lost on him that in order to qualify for it need to have a job.
Camp said he appreciates the work the governor is doing, but as he left the meeting he said he would continue to push the governor on urban unemployment.
Over the past decade, jobs in Bridgeport fell 13 percent, in Hartford 12 percent, in Stamford 19 percent, and by 9 percent in Waterbury. Among the five largest cities, only New Haven outperformed the state with a 2 percent drop, according to data compiled by the state Department of Labor.