Connecticut Senate Republicans unveil urban agenda, propose micro-loans for small startups

State Senate Republicans want to set aside up to $5 million from the state's $250 million small business program to help provide micro-loans to urban entrepreneurs, saying Thursday that more jobs are needed to help Connecticut's struggling cities.

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They also voiced support for much of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's "Second Chance Society" proposals, with some modifications. They agreed that people re-entering society from prison should be provided with opportunities for success and that mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses should be eliminated.

Those positions are part of a new urban agenda being offered during this year's General Assembly session by the GOP caucus. It comes after Senate Republicans announced in December they hired an urban affairs director to help relay the needs of minority groups to the caucus while sharing GOP policy ideas with urban communities.

"We believe the strength of our state depends on the strength of our cities," said Senate Minority Leader Leonard Fasano, R-North Haven, who has acknowledged that Republicans have struggled to penetrate cities with the party's message.

The GOP's proposed "CT Fast Funds" program calls for local banks to provide small business loans, ranging from $10,000 to $50,000, to startups. The state would provide a 70 percent loan guarantee. The plan also includes tax credits for investors and employment training for ex-offenders.

Some Senate Democrats questioned the GOP's commitment, saying Republican lawmakers opposed increases in the minimum wage and opposed the Earned Income Tax Credit program.

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"It's nice that the Republicans have finally noticed that there are cities in Connecticut," said Sen. Ed Gomes, a Bridgeport Democrat.