EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Gov. Dannel P. Malloy received praise and likely financial help on Wednesday from Vice President Joe Biden, who lauded his fellow Democrat as “an incredibly innovative governor” who deserves a second term.
Biden was visiting Connecticut to attend a round-table discussion at Goodwin College in East Hartford on workforce development and skills training. Afterward, he was to headline two fundraising events that could help Malloy, who faces a potentially challenging re-election bid this year. One fundraiser being held at a private residence in Stamford benefited the Connecticut Democratic Party while a second at a private residence in Greenwich was to raise money for the Democratic Governors Association.
Biden praised Malloy, as well as other Connecticut politicians, business and education leaders, for coming up with ways to work together to better train workers, calling it a national model. He also gave credit to Malloy for pushing to increase the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017, saying he’s one of only a few governors who “got it done.” Malloy quickly reminded Biden that Connecticut was the first state to pass a law that eventually raises the minimum wage to $10.10.
“This has been an incredibly innovative governor. I’m prejudiced. He’s my friend. I acknowledge that. He’s a Democrat, I’m a Democrat,” Biden said. “But by any standard, by any standard, this guy has done more.”
The state’s economy and jobs have been two of the toughest political issues for Malloy. A May 9 poll conducted by Quinnipiac University found that 55 percent of registered voters disapproved of Malloy’s handling of jobs and the state’s economy while 38 percent approved.
The national Republicans quickly dismissed Biden’s visit as an effort to help a governor in a tough election.
“With double the amount of fundraisers than official events, it’s clear Vice President Biden’s visit is more about salvaging Dan Malloy’s re-election chances and treating Connecticut as (the) Democrats’ piggy bank than anything having to do with creating jobs,” Michael Short, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, in a statement.
The round-table discussion included several Goodwin students, political leaders, educators and business representatives, including Louis Chenevert, CEO of United Technologies Inc. UTC recently reached a $400 million state tax-credit deal with Malloy in return for $500 million in promised upgrades at Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky and UTC Aerospace facilities.
Much of the discussion focused on a 2-year-old initiative at Goodwin where students receive training and professional certification in skills sought by both large and small manufacturers. Last May, 101 students entered the Certified Production Program and 33 have so far completed it, said Clifford Thermer, assistant vice president for strategy and business development.
He said the private, nonprofit school recently received a $3.75 million state grant from Malloy’s administration to build hands-on labs for students, and he credited the governor with understanding the importance of building a credentialed workforce in Connecticut.
“This initiative is actually the thing that is badly needed all across America,” said Biden, who contends that employers across the country are looking to fill tens of thousands of well-paying manufacturing jobs. “There is an overwhelmingly need for skilled personnel.”
Malloy said the state’s manufacturing sector will need to hire 2,200 workers per year for the foreseeable future and his administration is working to help those employers. He pointed to what he called “a whole new toolbox” that has been created for small businesses to help them grow, such as providing funding to train unemployed workers and increasing the number of state community colleges with advanced manufacturing centers from one to four.
“I have not visited, in the last year, a single manufacturer that wasn’t looking for additional people,” Malloy said. “Something we thought would never happen in the state of Connecticut again.”
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