Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the jobs bill Thursday evening less than 24-hours after it passed the General Assembly with just two Republican lawmakers voting against the measure.
With television cameras carrying the event live around 6 p.m. Malloy said it’s important to make sure people know that “when it comes to creating jobs and fixing the economy, Connecticut is not Washington D.C. Here, Democrats and Republicans can work together.”
His comments were echoed by Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, who pointed out that public anger at elected officials is at an all time high and “sadly that dissatisfaction has been justified.”
“The people of Connecticut deserve better than the shrill partisanship that comes from all parties down in Washington,” McKinney said. Consensus and compromise are “two words which are not bad words.” He said he hopes that this type of bipartisanship won’t be just “one shining moment,” but will carry over to the regular legislative session which starts in February.
The $626 million jobs package Malloy signed into law Thursday includes various tax credits, job training programs, and manufacturing assistance for businesses of all sizes.
The bipartisanship achieved in crafting that legislation, stood in stark contrast to the partisan rancor over the approval of the $291 million in state borrowing for Jackson Laboratory. Malloy has yet to sign that legislation.
“I wanted to be careful of people’s feelings. Not everybody supported that,” Malloy said of the Jackson Lab proposal. But he said the Republican leaders reminded him that “I don’t need to be so delicate.“ He said he intends to sign the Jackson Laboratory bill in the near future.
As for the jobs bill, “Let’s be clear about what this isn’t. It’s not a victory lap,” Malloy said. “What this is however is a few steps in the right direction. I think we stopped the bleeding, we turned the ship around, but you don’t turn around 22 years of economic stagnation in a few days or weeks.”
Asked to name one part of the bill that was more important than others, Malloy said the simple fact that they passed the bill is a victory. He said the entire bill sends a message to businesses that Connecticut can “act in concert, in a serious fashion, on a bipartisan basis, to address so many of the issues the business community has wanted state government to act on in the past.”
A clear sign of the state’s willingness to reform state government is the portion of the bill which says if there’s an application before the State Traffic Commission for more than 60 days it’s automatically approved, he said.
“It’s a very clear sign of what I’ve said all along that we’ve gotta remind people in state government that time is money,” Malloy said. “But there’s so many individual things, I think getting to the point was the most important thing.”
Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said the bill sends a messages that Connecticut is looking to preserve the American dream. He said the work over the past few weeks in crafting the legislation was “unprecedented and certainly historic.”
The bill authorizes $626 million in borrowing but Malloy said that doesn’t mean the state will be borrowing anymore than the anticipated $1.2 to $1.4 billion annually during each year of his four-year term.
“The folks that misunderstand what we did think we’re going to spend more money. We’re not going to spend more money,” Malloy said. “What we’ve decided to do is say that growing jobs and growing our economy is as important, if not more important, than some of the other things that we might spend that money on.”
But Sen. Kevin Witkos, the lone senator to vote against the bill, said he couldn’t vote for the bill because of the hefty price tag.
He said after Wednesday the state will be looking to borrow close to $626 million to cover the cost of the jobs initiatives and $291 million for Jackson Laboratory.
“By this authorization we would have firmed up our position as the one state in the country with the highest capital debt. I don’t think that’s something we should be proud of,” Witkos said during Wednesday’s debate.
During his rebuttal of the bill Witkos also thought it was curious how a permit for a wine festival was added to a jobs bill.
“I don’t know how the wine permit got into a jobs bill,” Witkos said. “It sounds like a good lobbyist had an in and said ‘how about allowing us to have one more wine festival‘.” He said that’s very specific for a jobs bill since there’s only 16 wineries in the state of Connecticut.
But it wasn’t a lobbyist who called for adding one more wine festival permit, it was Malloy.
“I thought that it would be appropriate to have a wine festival in the two halves of the state supportive of the wine industry. I want to grow interest in Connecticut wines,” Malloy said Thursday. “To support that industry we have to help develop a market and so that’s what was behind it.”
Currently there is a wine festival in Goshen. It’s unclear where the second wine festival will be held.