Tetreau: State poised to offer GE incentives to stay in Fairfield
Published 3:52 am, Thursday, August 20, 2015
First Selectman Michael Tetreau says Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is preparing an aggressive counter-offer to try to keep General Electric Corp. in Connecticut after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently visited the company’s Fairfield headquarters.
Tetreau said he expects the package to be laden with economic incentives, but that he wasn’t privy to the framework of any negotiations between Malloy’s administration and GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt.
“They’re putting together a proposal,” said Tetreau, who like Malloy is a Democrat. “The governor is directly involved in that. I’m not getting in the middle of Jeff and the governor talking.”
Malloy spokesman Devon Puglia declined to comment about Cuomo or GE, which embarked Tuesday on a $100 million venture to produce a new line of washing machines at its plant in Louisville, Ky.
A bidding war for GE’s corporate base of operations has broken out between Connecticut and several other states this summer, with rival governors trying to seize on the conglomerate’s displeasure with the business tax climate in its home state and the state budget.
The two-year $40 billion fiscal package raises taxes $1.2 billion, which is $178 million less than originally brokered between Malloy and majority Democrats in the General Assembly. The governor walked back part of the increase because of the outcry of corporations such as Aetna and GE, which has 5,700 employees in Connecticut.
The group of opportunistic poachers includes Malloy’s Democratic counterpart, Cuomo, who made a pitch to GE executives July 30 in Fairfield to uproot for Westchester County, N.Y. Immelt was absent during Cuomo’s visit, which was first reported by Politico New York.
“We have formed an exploratory team to assess the company’s options to relocate corporate headquarters,” GE said in a statement Tuesday. “The team is currently engaged in the process and is taking many factors into consideration. When there is a final decision on relocation, we will communicate it publicly.”
Cuomo’s office and the Empire State Development Corp. did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Republicans are using Cuomo’s visit as further ammunition that Connecticut is in a defensive posture in the retention and attraction of businesses under majority Democrats.
“We have to be proactive on this stuff,” said Republican Chris Tymniak, who is challenging Tetreau for Fairfield’s top office this fall. “We need to change our business model and let everybody know that Connecticut’s open for business. If I were another governor, I’d be coming to try to get GE out of Connecticut.”
Tymniak, who serves on the Representative Town Meeting, said Tetreau should have put up more of a protest against the budget brokered by Malloy and fellow Democrats in the legislature.
“He should have been calling for a veto on the budget. He never did,” Tymniak said.
Tetreau said he has been forceful on the economic impact of the state budget and accused Tymniak of politicizing the issue.
“He’s trying to use it for his personal benefit,” Tetreau said.
Tetreau commented that he is in regular communication with GE officials, who he said are upset with a looming unitary reporting requirement for multinational companies to open their books to see how much of their business activity is tied to Connecticut. The mandate was scheduled to be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2015, but Malloy agreed to push it back one year. Tetreau said GE is also unhappy with the state capping a relief measure that allows companies to offset their tax liabilities with operating losses at 50 percent instead of the previous 70 percent.
“There’s a very real possibility that GE might leave, either some or all of their organization,” Tetreau said. “This issue was really caused by the state. I think it’s really in GE’s hands and the governor’s hands.”