Christine Stuart file photo

Kevin Galvin, who runs a small commercial cleaning business in Hartford, wants the General Assembly to hold a special session to discuss legislation that would help small business.

He made that pronouncement on WTIC-AM 1080 radio Tuesday afternoon.

“I found myself at the close of the session really feeling like the legislature did very little to help improve the economic outlook for the state,” Galvin said Wednesday in a phone interview.

Galvin said the legislature failed to stop the gas tax hike that will go in effect on July 1 and they continued the “First Five” program which gives out millions in low-interest loans to large businesses that agree to create 200 jobs.

“They just don’t understand the needs of small business,” Galvin said.

But instead of complaining Galvin is talking to his fellow small business owners and starting an online petition to encourage lawmakers to act. The petition is not up yet, but will appear at ctjobsnow.biz.

“Small business is the largest employer group in the state and they need to listen to us,” Galvin said.

One of the chairmen of the legislature’s Commerce Committee Sen. Gary LeBeau and Deputy Speaker Jeffrey Berger, believe they have listened.

The legislature authorized $60 million in bond funds in February and another $100 million this month to expand the Small Business Express Program, which gives out low-interest loans to companies with fewer than 50 employees.

“Mr. Galvin must have had his eyes closed,” LeBeau said Wednesday. “One of the first things we did in February was authorize more money for the Small Business Express Program.”

LeBeau said more than 1,000 small businesses have received money through the program and only four have failed. “That’s a pretty high success rate,” he said.

Galvin countered that the application process is rigorous and on average businesses have to spend about 6 to 10 percent of the value of the loan on attorneys fees.

He said many small businesses end up with poor credit ratings because they end up self-funding their expenses with a credit card. However, even the ones who can get a loan from the bank often don’t have the liquidity to go through with it.

Since 2008 Galvin has gone from nine employees to four employees and it’s not for a lack of customers. He said his business contracted because instead of getting paid in 45 days, he now gets paid in 90 days and it’s a matter of having the cash.

“When the cash is late it’s not as valuable as when it’s on time,” Galvin said.

Before the creation of the Small Business Express Program during the 2011 bipartisan jobs session the legislature had never made an effort to help small business, LeBeau said. There’s a number of bills that passed this year that will help small manufacturing companies, home builders, and bioscience firms. There’s also a bill to help small business with exporting, an apprenticeship bill that expands tax credits for those offering apprenticeships, and one that expedites the permitting process. 

“This is not the ‘First Five.’ This is a direct subsidy,” LeBeau said of the Small Business Express Program.

Berger agreed.

“We can always do more, but the Small Business Express Program has been a success and a lifeline for small businesses,” he said Wednesday.

Galvin wonders why lawmakers put all their eggs into one basket with the program and didn’t use some of the money for different programs.

Berger said the legislature failed to address some fixes to the paid sick days legislation, but they passed legislation this year that dedicates $30 million to brownfield remediation.

“That’s a strong pro-business initiative,” Berger said.

And while he said he would have liked to do more, such as eliminate the scheduled gas tax hike, it was a tough budget year.

The ‘First Five’ program was described by Berger as “ying and yang.” He said there’s a lot of jobs being created through the program and it’s important for people to know there are protections in the legislation that allow the state to recover its investment, if the companies don’t create the jobs.

“The clawback provisions afford the taxpayers some protection,” Berger said.

Galvin said the reaction to his special session proposal has been really positive. Of the hundreds of phone calls and emails he received after his radio appearance only one was negative.

He said he can understand that legislators would not be happy about a special session, but maybe public pressure will change their minds.