State Senate Democrats propose jobs agenda

With two weeks before the start of this year’s legislative session, Connecticut’s Senate Democrats proposed a jobs plan they say will help the state continue its economic recovery.

Several senators held a press conference Tuesday afternoon at AdChem Manufacturing Technologies headquarters in Manchester to unveil a proposal they said is one of their highest priorities heading into the 2012 legislative session. According to the senators, the plan, which focuses on aiding jobs growth in small businesses, will protect and increase the number of in-state jobs and boost the state’s still flailing economy, which took a hit last week when ratings agency Moody’s downgraded Connecticut over its budget woes.

According to a press release from Adam Joseph, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats and former City Hall spokesman, the Democrats’ proposal has five major components: pushing to expand the state’s definition of a small business from 50 to 100 workers, fighting unemployment discrimination, starting a “Made in Connecticut” marketing campaign, expanding programs to help post-9/11 combat veterans find work in the state and creating a “Connecticut Treasures” program to highlight the state’s educational and tourist destinations.

The measure seeks to build off the momentum created by an October jobs bill passed by Connecticut’s General Assembly with a nearly unanimous vote. The October bill invested $60 million in city infrastructure, removed “excessive” regulations, cut business taxes and provided funds for small businesses to expand.

The Democrats’ plan aims to capitalize on the increased small-business funding by expanding the definition of small business to a business with up to 100 employees. This act, the senators claim, will expand existing state business loans and grants to an addition 2,600 local companies.

State Sen. Steve Cassano (D-Manchester) said at the conference that expanding the state’s definition of a small business will not only increase the number of potential applicants for state loans, but will also help firms like AdChem undertake an expansion that it might not do otherwise.

“The doomsday predictions that manufacturing is dead in Connecticut are way off base, Cassano said. “All you have to do is look at the recent growth in small manufacturers like AdChem to see that. There is long-term stability there.”

The plan also includes expanding Connecticut’s Subsidized Training and Employment Program, or STEP-Up, to specifically target veterans who served in combat in the past decade. According to the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, the unemployment rate for these veterans in Connecticut is 15.5 percent, compared with 11.5 percent nationally.

City Hall spokesperson Elizabeth Benton ’04 said that while city officials have not had the opportunity to review the specifics of the proposal, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. shares the senators’ focus on job growth, which will be a “major priority” for DeStefano over the next two years. Although she said there is no “silver bullet” for strong economic development, Benton said the city is working on short and long-term efforts to sustain job growth in the city.

She cited the mayor’s Office Construction Workforce Initiative, which helps New Haven residents find jobs in the construction industry, and the Small Contractor program as ways the city has helped place residents in local jobs. Also part of City Hall’s strategy for job growth, she said, are its efforts to attract new businesses to New Haven as well improve its school system through reforms.

The current unemployment rate in Connecticut is 8.4 percent, slightly below the national rate of 8.5 percent. In New Haven, the rate is higher, at 8.7 percent.

Connecticut’s State Senate is comprised of 36 members, 22 of whom are currently Democrats, enough to security the majority required to pass a bill.

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