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Hartford Has An Agenda

From jobs to education, lawmakers consider various issues this week.

Hartford is getting hectic – and the General Assembly isn’t even in session.

In recognition of that, Capitol DisPatch will now bring bite-sized bits of news from Hartford to help prompt discussion and debate. Each week it will offer a look at what’s on the agenda, what’s coming up, and what lawmakers are hoping to tackle.

AGING

Throughout the Nutmeg State more senior citizens want to stay home -- not on a Saturday night but from nursing homes and assisted living. That’s significant since Connecticut is the 7th oldest state in the nation. And the state’s 65 and older population is expected to grow 64 percent from 2006 to 2030.

As such, many “aging in place” initiatives provide seniors with support services so they can stay in their own homes. But because these programs don’t use government funding, they need members to stay open.

Senior centers in our towns can link residents to volunteer and non-profit services.

“Privatizing some state services, so private companies, non-profits, can competitively bid to provide these services especially in the social services for youth and seniors” said state Rep. Laura Hoydick, a Republican representing Stratford in the 120th House District.

The Connecticut Commission on Aging (CCA) wants the state to encourage people to plan for their future needs. They suggest working with public and private partners to promote and enhance private payer options.

“The goal should be to promote personal responsibility for one’s long-term care needs” most people don’t plan and “erroneously believe that Medicare will pay for these costs,” according to CCA.

EDUCATION

Back to school isn’t just for Connecticut students. The General Assembly knows it has a lot of homework regarding the achievement gap and the issue of teacher evaluations.

State Rep. Gail Lavielle, a Republican representing Wilton and parts of Norwalk in the 143rd House District, said people could expect that lawmakers will turn their attention to the Education Cost Sharing Formula. That’s likely to be reviewed. There’s a task force that is reviewing the formula and it’s meeting once a month. 

“This isn’t the first time they’ve tackled it, but they never manage to solve it,” Lavielle said.

In addition, expect to see the General Assembly consider teacher evaluations and tenure. In short, the whole idea of last in, first out will get a closer look, she said.

“When layoffs are an issue should you lay someone off just because they’re new?” Lavielle said.

For some lawmakers, education and jobs go hand in hand.

JOBS

While the special session on jobs will be held Oct. 26, exactly what the session will accomplish or discuss remains unclear. And that’s something on which both parties agree.

Hoydick also wants recognition for the role of small business.

She’d like Malloy to talk about: “Expanding the small business job creation tax credit to incentivize small companies to hirer new staff.”

She also wants to see tax relief to small businesses allowing 30 percent of taxable income not to be taxed if the company reinvests in equipment, more training or hiring in Connecticut. And she wants to work to retain and recruit small businesses for expansion or relocation utilizing tax exemptions or credits.

If the Oct. 6 Economic Summit is any indication, some of the agenda will include ways to keep the state’s educated workforce here.

“Too often today, businesses think our state’s best days are behind it. That couldn’t be further from the truth,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in a written statement. “If anything, the refrain I heard on my Jobs Tour was that businesses want to do business here, workers want to live here and they want to contribute to our economy, so long as we can figure out ways to jumpstart the economy and create new jobs for the 21st century.”

Last session the passage of “Learn Here, Live Here” was hailed by many in both parties as a way to encourage brain gain, not have brain drain…

POVERTY STRIKES 

Poverty in the Nutmeg State continues to rise, according to Connecticut Voices for Children, a non-profit think tank. Some facts:

  • At least 10.1 percent of residents had incomes under the Federal Poverty Level, up from 9.4 percent in 2009.
  • Median household income also fell statewide, declining from an estimated $68,174 in 2009 to $64,032 in 2010.
  • Estimates of poverty rates varied significantly across Connecticut’s cities: Norwalk with 7.3 percent and Stamford with 12.1 percent. (Estimates were only available for cities with populations higher than 65,000.)

“Connecticut’s rising poverty, falling income, and high unemployment reinforce the need for state policymakers to develop a statewide plan to create good-paying jobs and to restart our economic engine,” said Jamey Bell, executive director at Connecticut Voices for Children. 

“I agree that to decrease the poverty level we must get people back to work," Hoydick said. "I’m hoping the special jobs session will address some of these topics.”

Connecticut Voices supports the creation of a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) this year by the Connecticut lawmakers and the governor. 

“The new state EITC will provide a significant boost for low-income families and put more money directly into the hands of people working hard to reach the middle class,” said Wade Gibson, senior policy fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children.

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