Jobs Sessions Called in States Around Nation, With Differing Aims

As President Obama continues to push Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, the jobs crisis has motivated governors and legislators to act on their own in recent weeks at the state level. In many cases, with regular legislative sessions adjourned, this has meant special sessions being called to focus either in part or in full on passing measures that proponents say will spur job creation even in the absence of Congressional action. With revenue crises still affecting states and conservatives holding up the much needed federal jobs bill in Congress, most of the proposals being made in these special sessions are revenue-neutral, but the effect that many of them will have on actual job creation for their states is questionable at best.

In Connecticut, a special session has been called for October 26th. Gov. Dannel Malloy and Republican minority leaders in the legislature announced last week they would seek a “consensus” pacakge of job creation measures. Priorities for the session outlined by Gov. Malloy included building and training a workforce skilled for modern manufacturing jobs, streamlining regulatory review processes, and helping businesses access capital. As part of the effort to develop a legislative package, Gov. Malloy convened a “jobs summit” this week, announcing the launch of an initiative to help young startup businesses grow. Conservatives in the legislature have, in turn, proposed additional tax cuts and privatization as measures they believe will create jobs.

Maryland’s legislature will commence a special session focused on redistricting on October 17th, during which Gov. Thomas O’Malley has indicated he may push for adoption of some job creation measures. While the details of any potential proposals are still unclear, Gov. O’Malley this week told a reporter that “we’re still talking about a number of things.” He had previously indicated that he “doubted” any of the potential job creation measures would include revenue increases discussed over the summer.

In Missouri, a long and contentious special session resulted this week in House passage of an economic development bill, labeled a “jobs” bill by its proponents, that includes as its main provisions an across-the-board corporate tax cut and tax incentives to some businesses. It’s fate remains uncertain, as it differs significantly from a version passed by the Senate. Many progressives argued against the tax cuts, claiming they would hurt the state’s economy by forcing further cuts in education — specifically for higher education institutions which have already seen tens of millions of dollars in cuts in recent years. Rep. Chris Kelly (D) called the proposed corporate tax cut “a strike at the heart of economic development in Missouri, because if we can't put our kids in school, nobody's coming here” for jobs.

Meanwhile, in Gov. Scott Walker’s Wisconsin, conservatives still reeling from contentious recall battles over the summer and with a governor increasingly enmeshed in scandal attempted to change the subject by calling for a “jobs session” of their own. Gov. Walker, who had promised to create 250,000 jobs on the campaign trail last year, actually included a handful of proposals supported by the Democratic minority in his proposals for the session, which kicked off last week. Still, progressives in the legislature have been wary. “It’s nearly October, and we are just getting around to even considering any number of bills, including Democratic bills,” said Sen. Minority Leader Mark Miller (D). “Unfortunately, it seems just like the previous special session with the so-called budget adjustment bill, this session will be just another example of bait and switch.” Among the approximately two dozen bills expected to be introduced are measures to institute tax refunds for business investments, grants for technical colleges, and expansion of film production tax credits.

The limited options and political obstacles for state lawmakers seeking to immediately increase job growth in a revenue-neutral manner only underscores the need for Congress to act quickly on the President’s jobs bill, which would include $35 billion in direct aid to states, allowing them to keep teachers, police officers, and other critical employees on the job, contributing to their local economy, and paying taxes rather than collecting unemployment benefits.

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