Malloy: End post-GE sniping and focus on state changes
Published 6:34 am, Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Connecticut’s governor warned this week that if lawmakers want to keep the next business like General Electric from fleeing the state, they need to stop hamstringing him from making long-term fixes to the budget, public sector pensions and transportation.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Republicans and fellow Democrats need put an end to partisan sniping over GE’s defection to Massachusetts and come together to make the state a more competitive place to do business.
“What we know is that Connecticut needs to be in a state of change,” Malloy told Hearst Connecticut Media in an exclusive interview. “This is not a time for anyone to fingerpoint.”
Maligned for his economic policies, which critics say drove GE away, Malloy pushed back against the narrative that his administration has balked at the kind of wholesale changes that companies want to see from the state.
The problem, he said, is getting the Legislature to buy into key initiatives, such as a $100 billion transportation improvement program and repairing one of the most insolvent public pension systems in the nation.
“There have been enough warnings about waking up,” Malloy said. “What we need to get is everybody pulling in the same direction, rather than simply waking up. It’s a commitment to getting the fiscal house in order.”
The blunt approach by Malloy likely foreshadows his State of the State address, which he will deliver to a joint session of the General Assembly Feb. 3 in Hartford. It will be the first time that lawmakers will gather since GE announced last week that it is moving its headquarters from Fairfield to Boston.
Both Republicans and Democrats appreciated Malloy’s message of bipartisanship, but cast doubts about his ability to find harmony in an election year for the Legislature.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said the loss of GE is a stinging indictment of the policies of Democrats, who control the governor’s office and both legislative chambers.
“Does the state have to fall into Long Island Sound for them to say, ‘Aha,’ maybe something is wrong here?’ ” Klarides said.
The top Democrats in the House and Senate accused Republicans of politicizing GE’s decision to leave — one that the company revealed last week that it had been contemplating for three years.
“When it comes to the issue specifically of GE, there’s no question that we need to stop the recriminations and, ‘I told you so’s,’ but getting into a posture where we are constantly evaluating our competitive position as a state,” said House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden.
Both Sharkey and Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, have downplayed the role that taxes played in GE’s decision, which they have said was precipitated by $145 million in incentives from Massachusetts and a desire to be in an urban setting with nearby Harvard and M.I.T.
“I don’t think it was a major determinant at all, given the overall tax climate in Massachusetts and Boston being very similar to ours,” Looney said. “Boston is unique. It was not Massachusetts that stole GE. It was Boston.”
Republicans characterized their Democratic counterparts as delusional and unwilling to make the tough changes that Malloy has been advocating for as governor.
“The governor’s got to get those guys in line first,” said Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven.
Democrats contend that Republicans walked out of deficit-mitigation negotiations at the end of 2015 and have obstructed major economic development projects under Malloy, including the $1 billion Jackson Laboratory bio-science initiative.
“They have really not been supportive of things to help Connecticut compete,” Looney said.
Republicans say they walked out because Democrats refused to consider reining in state employee overtime, pension and health-care costs.
Malloy, who earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from Boston College, said lawmakers must recognize that the competition for business isn’t just a domestic one.
“Clearly, the political leaders, Democrats and Republicans, need to learn the lessons of what a long-term reinvention strategy needs to look like,” Malloy said.