‘From the Capitol’ Growing Connecticut Jobs

July 29, 2011

Imagine a Connecticut where tax incentives are no longer necessary, and a Connecticut that attracts and retains families and jobs. Since I began my run for the state senate, that has been my goal – putting Connecticut and our families back to work.

Recently, I had the opportunity to join members of the General Assembly to participate in a ceremony signifying Governor Malloy’s signing of Senate Bill 1001, An Act Creating the First Five Program. This bill is designed to create jobs through tax incentives. The First Five program offers tax incentives to large companies that add at least 200 new employees. The state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) commissioner may provide this assistance to up to five businesses per year in Fiscal Year 2012 and Fiscal Year 2013, respectively (i. e. ‘First Five’ Program).

Governor Malloy held the bill signing ceremony at CIGNA’s Bloomfield location to commend the company as the first to take advantage of the newly adopted First Five program. Under this new law, CIGNA will receive nearly $50 million in state assistance for creating 200 new jobs. The company has been given a $2 million grant for workers’ relocation costs; a $15 million, no interest, forgivable loan; and $30 million in tax credits.

As Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee, I had the opportunity to speak at the ceremony and commend the bill’s passage as well as CIGNA’s announcement. I am pleased that this new law incentivized CIGNA to relocate its headquarters to Connecticut and to bring these badly needed jobs into our state. Connecticut is the insurance capitol of the world and it is gratifying to see that title remain as we recover from the effects of this recession.

The First Five program is a positive first step for Connecticut job growth, and is a piece of legislation that I supported. My hope is that the bill creates job momentum and expands so that the first five turns into ten then fifty and then the first hundred.

Although this is a bill with good intent, more could have been done to make it better and more effective. If we are going to create incentives, we need legislation that spreads these incentives throughout the entire state. Going forward, the legislature must extend the incentives of the First Five program to include all job creators, particularly the small ones that are unable hire 200 or more employees. After all, it is small business that drives our state’s economy, and creates the majority of the jobs here in Connecticut. And at a time when the state’s unemployment rate hangs above nine percent (and has risen to 9.9 percent in Stratford), just imagine what small job creators could do with increased state support or financial assistance. Widening the scope would work to turn our state’s economy and job market around, bringing jobs and peace of mind to the many hardworking families across Connecticut.

It is also important to note that the First Five program comes among a General Assembly session filled with extreme anti-job legislation. The Governor and legislative majority passed a state budget that saddles state residents with the largest tax increase in state history – $3.7 billion – and increases state spending by four percent – nearly $1 billion – over the next two fiscal years. The General Assembly also passed the “Amazon” tax and paid sick leave legislation, which are mandatory anti-job laws, and the Governor even proposed to send local pharmacy jobs out-of-state via mail order with his union concession package. These new laws and state taxes have already been a detriment to the state, so much so that independent Moody’s Investors Service recently downgraded its outlook on Connecticut’s bond rating from stable to negative. Worse, each of these new laws were passed in Connecticut while our neighboring states are working to ease burdensome regulations and continue to streamline government costs in an effort to proactively rebuild their economies. So while the state may claim victory for one program, there is still more work that needs to be done on legislation, taxes and regulation that drive jobs out-of-state.

Here in Connecticut, government has become accustomed to high rates of spending, over-regulation and then taxing our families to cover the expense. We can no longer rely on middle-class taxpayers as the primary revenue source to balance the budget of a bloated state government and boost our state’s weak economy. Only by creating jobs can we rebuild Connecticut’s fiscal house and ultimately reestablish a jobs-friendly climate. It is my hope the General Assembly will keep that in mind going forward so that we can one day truly claim ‘Connecticut is open for business.’