Live, from the state Capitol, it’s bipartisanship!
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy tried to keep the good vibrations going for another day Thursday as he signed a bipartisan $626 million jobs-growth bill on live television with legislative Democrats and Republicans arrayed behind him.
Absent from the ceremony was the other, partisan piece of business conducted during the previous day’s special session on jobs: a $291 million subsidy to construct and launch a new genetics facility for Jackson Laboratory at UConn Health Center.
“I want to be careful of people’s feelings,” Malloy said, noting that the Jackson Lab deal passed without a Republican vote in the Senate and with minimal GOP support in the House. It will be signed at another time.
Among the legislators behind him were the Republican minority leaders, Rep. Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. of Norwalk and Sen. John P. McKinney of Fairfield, who joined most of GOP caucuses in opposing the Jackson Lab deal.
Aware that the bill-signing ceremony seemed like a curtain call, Malloy began by saying of both the session and the signing: “Let’s be clear about what this isn’t. It’s not a victory lap.”
But it was an opportunity to let Catherine Smith, the former corporate chief executive he recruited as economic development commissioner, take a turn before the cameras.
Then one by one, he called every legislative leader forward to accept his public thanks. When it was Cafero’s turn, Malloy said as a former prosecutor he appreciated closing arguments, Cafero’s remarks during the session were compelling.
His audience applauded and laughed. Cafero’s closing arguments typically are directed at the shortcomings of the governor’s proposals.
Malloy called the jobs bill, which provides a variety of economic incentives directed at manufacturers, major employers and small business a first step in the right direction – and an important signal in a state with no net job growth for two decades.
“I think we stopped the bleeding,” Malloy said.
The ceremony in the Old Judiciary Room of the state Capitol was carried live near the top of the Six O’Clock news by NBC30 and also by CT-N, the cable network that covers the state Capitol.
The jobs bill that the Malloy Administration negotiated with Cafero, McKinney and the leaders of the Democratic majorities passed with only one dissenting vote in each chamber.
And the Democratic governor and legislative leaders of both parties were happy to draw a contrast between Hartford and Washington, where the two parties are unable to agree on a federal jobs bill proposed by President Obama as he ramps up his re-election campaign.
No one had an answer for the question posed by Cafero during his closing argument: Was the bipartisanship “one brief, shining moment” or a new way of doing business in Hartford?
McKinney noted that disgust with elected leaders is at an all-time high.
“Sadly that dissatisfaction has been justified,” McKinney said. “The people of Connecticut deserve better.”
And for a few days at least, they got better — at least in the view of those who believe it was worth borrowing $626 million to goose the economy. With the interest included, the cost of the bill over 20 years will be more than $1 billion.
Malloy said he will keep the state’s borrowing within its limit for the year of about $1.2 milion, so the $626 million does not represent borrowing above what already was intended by the administration. Sensitive to critics who see the measure as fiscal profligacy, McKinney and Cafero nodded in agreement as the governor made the case it should not be seen as a major increase in spending.
The bill Malloy signed offers eligible employers a monetary incentive to hire workers. Starting in January, employers can get as much as $900 for each new employee if they hire a veteran, a person with a disability or now receiving unemployment benefits.
With studies mixed about whether employers can be persuaded by such inducements, Malloy was asked if he had hard data that the new incentives would work.
He had two answers: First, it was clear an existing incentive of $200 was inadequate; and second, he was assured during his jobs tour by one Hartford area employer that the company would hire 45 workers with the right incentives.
Smiling, he said, “I’m going to call him tomorrow.”