Connecticut Jobs One Program The DeStefano Proposal for 200,000 New Jobs The December job numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics once again put Connecticut near the bottom in terms of job growth. The year-end numbers placed Connecticut 43rd in the country. In fact, New Hampshire, a state about one-third the population of Connecticut, created nearly as many jobs as Connecticut did.But Connecticut’s job slump is more than about numbers; it’s about real people. We have only to look to Hartford, where scores of high-paying information technology jobs are being outsourced and moved overseas; to Groton, where 222 layoff notices were handed out at Electric Boat; to Waterbury, where a bronze factory is closing, putting 90 people out of work; to North Haven, where 850 distribution plant workers are losing their jobs; and to New Haven, where Winchester firearms is closing, idling 186 workers. Connecticut needs a new direction and new ideas to stop the hemorrhaging of jobs and jumpstart growth. Legislators will soon decide how to use the state’s budget surplus, which is pegged at $500 million but is expected to top $700 million. Some money should be deposited in the Rainy Day Fund and some should be put into the underfunded Teachers’ Retirement Account. But the storm clouds are gathering. If Connecticut does not begin to address its stagnant job growth, the deluge will be upon us. We must act decisively and we must act now.Connecticut needs to spur job growth by investing in economic development that creates good-paying jobs immediately and also builds a foundation for sustainable growth over the next several years.The DeStefano Plan to leverage a portion of the surplus to stimulate job growth includes the following: College affordability scholarships. ousing Trust Fund for In-Demand Careers. Elimination of the property tax on manufacturing equipment. Economic SWAT teams. Math and Science Skills: A National Challenge This country is facing a severe shortage of math and science professionals. With the retirement of baby boomers and short pipeline of scientific and technical professionals, the country’s competitive edge is in jeopardy. The recent national report, Rising Ab ove the Gathering Storm , calls for a national effort to raise math and science skills. Some of their findings include: In 2004, China graduated about 500,000 engineers; India 200,000; and the United States, 70,000. In one recent period, low-wage employers like Wal-Mart (now the nation’s largest employer) and McDonald’s created 44 percent of all new jobs. High-wage employers created only 29 percent. In 2003, foreign students earned 59 percent of the engineering doctorates awarded in U.S. universities. The warning signs are being ignored by the White House and Congress. nfortunately, Go v. Rell has chosen to do the same. Connecticut’s Opportunity Connecticut has an opportunity to break away from being a bottom 10 state in job growth by investing in higher education with an emphasis on raising the talent pool in the fields of math and science.The Connecticut Department of Labor issued a report, Catalysts for Future Economic Growth in Connecticut, which demonstrates the return on investment by focusing on math and science knowledge and skills. The report states:“Given the current economic conditions, Connecticut still remains in an advantageous position with regard to labor shortages, since it houses some of the world’s best math, science and engineering universities and ranks among the highest concentration of high technology establishments and of scientists and engineers as a share of the workforce. Yet, as our public and private institutions of higher learning steadily confer math, science and engineering degrees to highly trained graduates, their numbers still remain below forecast demand.”Gov. Rell has been asleep at the switch. The governor’s most notable accomplishment in the area of math and science so far has been declaring October Science and Math Teacher Appreciation month. (press release: 10/26/2005) Her other strategy is to declare that she’s appalled and aghast after layoffs are announced and to ask the affected companies to reconsider. They invariably reject her request. The DeStefano Plan Connecticut ranks dead last in state and local investment in higher education. This is undermining the state’s historic position as a national leader in producing a skilled workforce. Rising tuition and housing costs have resulted in a Connecticut brain drain.The recent Labor Department report demonstrates that Connecticut has a skills shortage and not enough graduates in speci fic degree programs to meet the supply. Investing in in-demand degree scholarships represents one of Connecticut’s best chances to stimulate job creation for occupations that pay high wages. Those in-demand degrees include: Bioscience Computer Science Engineering Physical Science Nursing Target Tech: $180 Million for In-demand Scholars Program Science scholars: $145 million over 4 years.$10,000 science scholarships will be available to students that pursue degrees in bioscience, computer science, engineering and physical science at an accredited higher education institution in Connecticut. About 3,500 science scholarships will be available every year over the next four years. A maximum of $10,000 will be available over 4 years/per student.Nursing degree: $35 million over 4 years.$10,000 nursing scholarships will be available to meet the current supply, allowing for 875 scholarships per year. A maximum of $10,000 will be available over 4 years/per student.To ensure th at the talent pool remains in Connecticut, each scholarship will require a 4 -year residence in the state. If a scholar leaves the state before completing his residency requirement, the scholarship will be treated as a loan. Housing Trust Fund For In-Demand Careers Connecticut, and particularly Fairfield County, has become one of the most expensive housing markets in the country, putting homeownership out of the reach for many recent college graduates and young professionals. At the same time, many science-related industries are having difficulty attracting workers to fill vacancies because of the high housing costs.$50 million from the budget surplus will be invested and the yearly interest used to offer downpayments to first-time homebuyers who are employed in fields related to bioscience, computer science, engineering, physical science and nursing. The amount per household will be limited to $20,000.It’s estimated that the Trust Fund will generate roughly $4 million to $5 million a year in interest, generating as many as 250 downpayments of $20,000 each. The recipient will be required to be the primary tenant and live in the housing unit for 4 years, generating property tax revenue for the municipality and income tax revenue for the state.The trust fund for in-demand careers will be a complement to the Housing Trust Fund for Growth and Opportunity that was enacted in 2005 and intended to increase the stock of affordable housing.The housing program will be similar to the one used so successfully in New Haven, where the city and nonprofit organizations have spurred the creation of hundreds of housing units for first-time homebuyers. Institutions such as Yale University, which recently celebrated its 700th participant in the home buyers program, have made a huge difference in stabilizing neighborhoods and providing opportunities for young families. Elimination of the Property Tax on Manufacturing Equipment Connecticut has lost more than 107,000 manufacturing jobs in the past 15 years, and no end is in sight. Electric Boat announced in December that 2,400 workers will be laid off.Connecticut is at a competitive disadvantage with regard to its Northeastern neighbors, as well as to states in regions of the country where labor and utility costs are substantially lower. In an effort to lighten the tax burden on manufacturers and generate jobs, the property ta x on manufacturing equipment will be eliminated. The s tate already provides reimbursements of roughly $50 million a year to municipalities through its Payment in Lieu of Taxes program (PILOT). Eliminating the tax will increase the state’s annual payment to about $190 million, or about $140 million in additional dollars.The elimination of the manufacturing tax should be done in the context of a comprehensive tax reform package, the details of which will be discussed at a later date. Economic SWAT Team $5 million will be used to create an economic rapid response team whose mission will be twofold. The multidisciplinary team will consist of public- and private-sector officials, economists, academics and futurists, and replace the ineffective Rapid Response Team now used by the Department of Labor. First, the SWAT team will be deployed to the site when layoffs or plant closings are announced, survey the workers, ascertain their skills and interests and match them up with existing job openings and/or retraining and education programs.Second, the team will focus on economic diversification and will brainstorm new and dramatic uses for workers’ job skills. Such uses could include product development or evolving technologies. A Connecticut Talent Bank will be created using 21st century technology to help match job seek ers with job openings. It will accept resumes via the Internet and allow employers to search online for potential employees. This is similar to a talent bank in existence in Michigan, where 300,000 resumes and 40,000 jobs have been posted. The system will be free to employers and job seekers. TOTAL COST of DeStefano Plan: $375 million.
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