‘Green’ jobs bill heads for Rell’s signature

Two jobs bills are headed for Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s desk, one she has promised to sign and the other she will veto.

Rell says she will sign a green jobs-creation bill overwhelmingly passed Saturday by the House and Senate.

But she will veto a bill passed early Sunday that creates a tax on bonuses defined as “excessive” for those working at firms that were bailed out by the federal government.

The bill she supports focuses on creating green jobs by redirecting $200 million in already borrowed money to create a tax credit for “green” technology startup companies and for companies who are environmentally friendly when they build.

“We are giving birth to a major industry,” said House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden. “Rather than just creating a tax credit, let’s create green jobs.”

Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, whose staff helped craft the bill, applauded its bipartisan passage. It cleared the House, 140-4. Passage in the Senate was unanimous.

lebeau-green jobs bill-5-2-10

Sen. Gary LeBeau, co-chair of the Commerce Committee, says tax advantages for ‘green’ businesses will help create thousands of jobs (Jacqueline Rabe)

“Creating jobs has been the number one priority of everyone this session – Democrats and Republicans – and all brought workable ideas to the table since the beginning of the session,” Rell said.

Passage came on the last weekend before the legislature’s constitutional adjournment deadline of midnight Wednesday as lawmakers, administration officials and lobbyists tried to resolve details on several issues, including the budget and a major energy bill.

With Rell hinting at a veto of the energy bill unless major revisions are made, the backers spent the day trying to negotiate a consensus. Debate that was originally scheduled for Saturday in the Senate was postponed until Monday.

In other action, the House voted 109 to 34 approve legislation authorizing $237 million in bonding towards a $362 million plan to rebuild the University of Connecticut Health Center. The project still faces a vote in the state Senate and the delivery of $100 million in federal funding.

Key to the plan is a new health care network involving former critics of efforts to rebuild the state’s flagship medical and dental school, including Hartford Hospital, St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

“With today’s successful House vote we’re one important step closer to a new and improved UConn Health Center that will offer the highest quality health care and lead to the creation of hundreds of jobs associated with the health care industry,” Rell said. “The network created will have incredible reach throughout the state.”

Early Sunday, the House voted 89 to 49 to give final passage to a Senate Democratic jobs bill that Rell said she would veto because of expected legal battles over a tax on bonuses defined in the bill as “excessive” for those working at firms that were bailed out by the federal government.

The other jobs bill that Rell intends to sign creates tax credits for those investing in start-up businesses and for every new job created, and a tax exemption for small businesses purchasing environmentally-friendly tools and machines. Also included is a tuition reimbursement of up to $10,000 for students studying for green, life sciences and information technology fields.

Sen. Gary D. LeBeau, D-East Hartford, co-chairman of the legislature’s Commerce Committee, said the bill “creates tens of thousands of jobs in the next six months to a year” for small businesses.

Rep. Jeffrey J. Berger, D-Waterbury, estimates the $200 million for tax credits for green startup companies and for businesses that build environmentally friendly will create at least 5,000 jobs.

“This is the perfect public, private partnership,” he said before the House passed the bill 140-4 and the Senate passed it unanimously. “We’re going to change how the state of Connecticut operates.”

The “jobs” bill comes as almost 100,000 people have lost their jobs in the last 18 months, and the unemployment rate is 9.3 percent.

The new tax credits are paid by using bonding and letting tax credits that lawmakers say are “unsuccessful” in creating jobs sunset, said Rep. Mike Alberts, R-Woodstock, Ranking member on the Commerce Committee.