New airport authority for Bradley flies through Senate [Journal Inquirer]

June 6, 2011

By Ed Jacovino
Article as it appeared in the Journal Inquirer on June 6, 2011

HARTFORD — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s plan to create a quasi-public agency to operate Bradley International Airport and the five other state-owned airports passed the Senate on Saturday in a unanimous vote.

The proposal, which calls for a new “Connecticut Airport Authority,” now heads to the House of Representatives. The legislative session ends Wednesday.

The plan breaks the airports’ management out from under the Department of Transportation, giving it authority over hiring and firing, raising and borrowing money, setting budgets, and making business deals.

Airport staff would remain state employees, and their contracts would stay in place. The airports themselves would remain state property.

“We’ve missed opportunity after opportunity because we moved too slowly because of the state’s bureaucracy,” said Sen. Gary D. LeBeau, D-East Hartford, one of the bill’s strongest supporters. “We need to be more business-like, because it is a business.”

The move was proposed by Malloy, a Democrat. It beat out another option that would have expanded the authority of the Bradley board of directors but wouldn’t have grouped Bradley, located in Windsor Locks, with the state’s five other airports. Those smaller airports include Brainard Airport in Hartford and Windham Airport.

Lawmakers hailed the move as a way to bring more businesses, jobs, and money to the state.

Sen. John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, represents four towns that border the airport. He drew an analogy between Bradley and an airplane, saying the proposal allows the airport to “take off.”

Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, a former head of the Bradley board of directors, said the measure would help it become an even bigger player in the region.

“The governor completely understands the value of Bradley airport and the potential of Bradley airport,” Frantz said. “It’s a very important asset, in a global sense, for this region.”

The new authority would oversee Bradley and the state’s five regional airports. Other small municipal airports, such as those in New Haven and Danbury, could choose to join the others.

LeBeau said the change to how Bradley is run will have a significant effect on the surrounding area.

“This bill is not only good economic development policy for Connecticut, it’s particularly good for north-central Connecticut and the Hartford area,” he said.

He pointed to a measure the legislature established two years ago creating an enterprise zone for development around the airport, with tax breaks for businesses looking to move there. The two combined will work to bring more jobs to the area, LeBeau said.

“This bill is about jobs,” Malloy said in a statement. “By making our airports — particularly Bradley International — more attractive to new routes, new commerce, and new companies who may be considering a home in our state, this authority will help us generate new economic activity that will result in new jobs. We need to tap Bradley’s full potential and help make it an economic driver in our state, unbridled by the bureaucracy that may slow its progress down.”