CT Senate passes jobs bill

HARTFORD - (AP) - Connecticut lawmakers returned to thestate Capitol on Wednesday to act on two bills aimed at combattingthe state's stagnant job growth and giving a boost to the emergingbio-sciences industry by investing in a new $1.1 billion geneticslaboratory at the University of Connecticut Health Center. The House of Representatives and the Senate overwhelminglypassed a wide-ranging bipartisan jobs bill that calls for $626million in state bonding to pay for a range of initiatives. Theoriginal estimate was $516 million. The revised package calls forloans and assistance for small businesses, tax credits for newhires, job training and imposing the state's $250 business entitytax every two years instead of annually, among other initiatives. Lawmakers said they have heard numerous stories from out-of-workconstituents unable to find jobs. Connecticut's unemployment ratehas stubbornly hovered around 9 percent for months, dipping to 8.9percent in September. The lawmakers said they've also heard fromsmall business owners questioning why government has mostly offeredfinancial help to large companies during the economic downturn. Rep. Jeffrey Berger, D-Waterbury, co-chairman of the GeneralAssembly's Commerce Committee, said the goal of the legislation isto address the state's unemployment woes and to help make the statea "global power" again. "We make that step here today, in a bipartisan way," he said. Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy praised Democratic andRepublican lawmakers for coming together and working with him tocome up with the sweeping legislation, saying "making Connecticutmore business-friendly aren't goals owned by any one party." But partisan disagreement broke out over whether it makesfinancial sense to borrow nearly $291 million to help build a $1.1billion research lab at the University of Connecticut Health Centerin Farmington, in conjunction with The Jackson Laboratory of Maine.While that measure passed the Senate on a 21-14 vote, theRepublicans opposed the deal. Members of the legislature's minority party questioned whetherthe project is worth the taxpayers' large investment. "This is no ordinary economic development deal," warned Sen.Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, a former chairman of the ConnecticutDevelopment Authority, referring to the nearly $300 million pricetag. "We have to be very, very careful about making a decision toput this many resources into something that has somewhat of anunclear outcome." Jackson, a nonprofit, independent organization, has promised 320jobs over 10 years, for a total of 661 over 20 years. An estimated6,900 long-term and indirect jobs are projected - a figurequestioned by Republicans.

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