Malloy backs saving jobs bill killed in House-Senate fight

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is backing an effort to resurrect the bipartisan jobs bill that was killed in a game of political chicken by House and Senate Democratic leaders a week ago on the last day of the annual legislative session.

"I have expressed my support for that in personal conversations with a number of individuals," Malloy said Wednesday after addressing a business group at the XL Center. "I think there were a lot of good things in that bill."

It was unclear the extent to which Malloy is willing to broker an agreement between House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, and Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn.


Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

The two leaders have not spoken about legislative business since the session ended with Donovan pushing the Senate to pass his bill increasing the $8.25 minimum wage and Williams urging House passage of the bipartisan jobs bill.

Neither appears to have changed his position.

"I'm still interested in that," Donovan said of a minimum-wage increase. "I'm still trying to help the 100,000 people who are making minimum wage."

Williams said through a spokesman, Adam Joseph, that the jobs bill is a priority for the special session that will be called to consider budget implementation bills. He declined to comment on the minimum wage.

"How is it possible that this bill was left to the last day of the session and then did not pass?" Williams said the day after the session, when he declined to hold a joint press conference with Donovan.

Williams only contact with Donovan was a congratulatory phone call after the speaker won the congressional endorsement of a Democratic convention Monday.

Each leader seemed to miscalculate the other in the closing days. Donovan never accepted Williams' assessment that the minimum wage could not pass the Senate this year, while Williams seemed to think that his jobs bill was so attractive in an election year that the House would accept it.

Donovan, who is running for Congress, said Wednesday that jobs bill was good legislation on the substance and the politics. The bill extends economic-development assistance to medium-sized companies and offers incentives to hire returning veterans.

Dan Roberti, one of his two opponents in the Democratic primary for the 5th District nomination, made the speaker's role in the standoff over the jobs and minimum wage bills an issue Wednesday.

"During the past legislative session, Speaker Donovan's stubborn stance on the minimum wage stymied an important initiative that would have jump-started job creation in the state," Roberti said.

But Donovan, who won the convention endorsement Monday, said he is trying to save the minimum wage increase, not kill the jobs bill.

"I'm for it," Donovan said. "I'm running on it, too."

But Donovan added, "I want to make sure when the veteran comes home he's getting a decent wage."

Donovan said the governor is supportive of boosting the minimum, which has not increased since Jan. 1, 2010, when it went from $8 to $8.25. In recent years, a typical increase has been 25 or 30 cents.

Williams has said he would vote to increase the minimum wage, but too many members of the Democratic majority want to wait a year to see if the fragile economic recovery grows stronger.

His spokesman, Joseph, said there is no reason to tie the jobs bill to the minimum wage.

"Families across Connecticut want the legislature to take action to create jobs and grow small businesses," Joseph said by email. "There is no issue more critical to our state's success than the economic security of our families. Our jobs bill has bipartisan support; it's good for families, it's good for small business and we intend to pass it as part of the budget implementer session."

House Majority Leader J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said the Senate never made an effort to sell the House on the jobs legislation, Senate Bill 1.

"Senate Bill 1 was a proposal that was, I think was almost exclusively developed in the Senate," Sharkey said. "There was little or no input sought or received from House members with the possible exception of Jeff Berger, the co-chairman of the Commerce Committee."

Sharkey said no House member felt invested in the jobs bill, which was one reason Donovan faced no pressure in his own chamber to take up the legislation.

House Minority Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, said he assumes that both the minimum wage and jobs bill will be taken up in the special session as part of a deal between Donovan and Williams.

"Why are they doing it? Simple, because they can," Cafero said. "It is another example of what happens with one-party government."