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OPINION: Special Session Could Have Helped More Businesses

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Last week, the legislature was called into special session to consider a package of tax incentives valued at $220 million to keep Sikorsky Aircraft in the state and producing world class helicopters in their Stratford facility.  We – the Greenwich delegation – voted yes on the bill because we felt supporting a large Connecticut manufacturer, its employees and the myriad businesses that supply parts are valuable to the state’s overall economy and health.

Unfortunately, and despite repeated requests by both House and Senate Republican leadership, the scope of the special session was narrowed to only include the Sikorsky deal. Our proposal attempted expansion of the session to consider legislation that would directly impact other businesses and manufacturers across our state.

We wanted to debate additional initiatives:

  • Require legislative approval of state employee contracts
  • Prohibit the state from participating in the mileage tax pilot program or implementing a state mileage tax
  • Prohibit increasing rail and bus fares without legislative approval
  • Implement pension reforms (contained in Senate Bill 1301 from the 2011 regular session), including prohibiting new longevity payments and eliminating both overtime and longevity payments from pension calculations
  • Create a bipartisan State Bond Cap Commission, require the commission to present recommendations for an annual cap on state bond allocations before February 28, 2017, and require a vote during the 2017 regular session
  • Create a Transportation Oversight Board to ensure input and accountability for state-wide transportation planning and funding

To say it is disappointing when open dialogue and debate are not considered valuable enough for an elected legislature to even consider is an understatement.  It is especially frustrating when the legislature is voting on a bill to assist one employer when these other matters could have equally far-reaching and deep impacts statewide.

As the Sikorsky announcement neared, Lockheed Martin executives underscored these underlying state issues saying it will cost the company $400 million more to produce King Stallion helicopters here. The recent departure of GE and the near-departure of Sikorsky are more than just the proverbial “canaries in a coal mine.”

Connecticut has traditionally been on the vanguard of innovative, high-tech manufacturing and professional sectors and we feel it is worth looking into alternative ways to promote and expand those, and others, well into the future. Even as our state economy struggles and both large and small employers consider relocating to more business friendly states, we are confident changes can be made to turn the ship and once again lead the nation.

We are truly pleased Sikorsky will continue to manufacture helicopters in their facility along the Housatonic River. However, on the same day we voted to secure their presence in the state until at least 2032, we were left wondering why even considering the underlying climate that almost caused Sikorsky’s departure was too much to ask.