FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Gov. Dannel Malloy added a series of education reforms to his previously announced plans for the economy in Fairfield County and the state as he opened Connecticut’s 2014 legislative session Thursday.
The governor delivered his annual State of the State address in the state Capitol before the entire General Assembly at midday Thursday. Malloy closed the speech with ideas to continue Connecticut’s education reforms, focusing on the state’s youngest and oldest students.
One proposal is a push for universal prekindergarten. Offering grants to towns and cities to implement public pre-K programs, as well as rate increases to private and quasi-public preschools and child care centers were among the proposals from Malloy, who has advocated for early childhood education since his days as the mayor of Stamford.
“We know that early education is one of the best ways to level the playing field for students,” Malloy said. “We know it, because we’ve seen it firsthand.”
He also has ideas for higher education. Malloy proposed starting a state program that would let parents start a tax-free college fund for their kids, with the state contributing $250 at the start of the investment. He also proposed offering a free course to students who have let their college plans lapse to encourage them to finish their degrees.
He also suggested working with IBM to bring a version of the company’s P-TECH program to Connecticut. P-TECH has set up programs in New York and Chicago that allows a student to earn both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree, specializing in high-demand STEM fields.
Malloy also backed the “Transform CSCU 2020” initiative, which would unite community colleges and public universities into one “student-centered, technology rich-system.”
“Let's help colleges from Norwalk to Naugatuck Valley to Eastern Connecticut State University,” Malloy said. “Let's move our state university and community college system into the 21st century.”
For his economic policy, Malloy had introduced his ideas in the weeks leading up to the joint session, including his plan to use part of the $500 million surplus on a modest tax refund and to raise Connecticut’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2017.
He also rolled out plans to bring more jobs to Connecticut, many of which were introduced by the Democratic caucus. The ideas include continuing the Small Business Express and STEP-Up programs, which offer grants and incentives to new companies and existing ones that hire more people.
Malloy also backed plans for a series of tax exemptions, including restoring sales tax exemptions for clothing items under $50 and nonprescription medication.
He also wants to make municipalities exempt from paying taxes on their employees’ healthcare plans, which would go toward reducing property taxes statewide, and to give retired teachers income tax exemptions on their pension payments.
“This is modest but real relief,” Malloy said. “Relief designed to ease the burden of working families and help them share in Connecticut’s recovery, now and into the future.”
The governor also pledged support for President Barack Obama’s plans to help end homelessness among military veterans by 2015. Connecticut’s portion of the plan might include a new security deposit assistance program to help veterans put a down payment on a home.
“I can’t think of anyone more ready and more deserving of our assistance, than Connecticut's veterans,” Malloy said.