Senate Approves UTC/Pratt & Whitney Tax Credit Bill

by Categorized: 2014 Election, Donald Williams, Economy, General Assembly, Gov. Dannel Malloy, John Fonfara, John McKinney Date:

HARTFORD – The state Senate gave final legislative approval Thursday to a bipartisan bill to allow Hartford-based United Technologies Corp. to use earned, but unused, tax credits in exchange for $500 million in improvements over the next five years in Connecticut.

The bill passed by 34 to 2 with Democrats touting the deal as a major step forward for the state’s largest private employer. Two Republicans said the deal amounted to “corporate welfare” and a giveaway to a highly profitable, multinational corporation.

The bipartisan bill applies only to large manufacturing companies that have at least 15,000 employees in Connecticut and have $400 million in accumulated research-and-development tax credits. As such, lawmakers say the bill is specifically targeted at United Technologies, even though the company is never mentioned by name in the bill.

The deal calls for Pratt & Whitney to maintain its headquarters in the state for at least 15 years and for Stratford-based Sikorsky to remain for at least five years. In exchange, UTC would be able to use up to a maximum of $400 million in research-and-development tax credits that it has already accumulated.

State Sen. John Fonfara, the co-chairman of the tax-writing finance committee, said the Pratt improvements in East Hartford will be “housing the best and brightest in the world, mostly Ph.D.’s in engineering.”

Fonfara added that Sikorsky Aircraft will be doing “game-changing research on the next generation of helicopters.”

Lawmakers said that 2,500 suppliers, including many machine shops, will benefit as the parent company prospers. More than 700 of those suppliers have dealings of $100,000 or more, lawmakers said. With thousands of employees, UTC’s economic impact works its way all the way down to dry cleaners, grocery stores, and retailers, lawmakers said.

“For me, it is a bet on the future,” Fonfara told his colleagues on the Senate floor. “Not only a bet on the best and brighest engineers” but a bet that Connecticut will benefit, too.

“We want you here, UTC,” Fonfara said on the Senate floor. “We want your family of companies here in the state. Those 600 new engineers that you hire every year, we want them here in this state. … That’s a win-win for Connecticut. Right here in the small state of Connecticut.”

But Sen. Anthony Guglielmo, a Stafford Springs Republican with 22 years at the state Capitol, said the deal was an example of “corporate welfare” and a giveaway to a huge international corporation with major profits. He criticized the “First Five” program of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for awarding tax breaks to companies in the hopes of keeping jobs in the state. 

“I do have a problem with the concept of picking winners and losers,” Guglielmo said. “It’s better than Starwood [hotels]. It’s better than Jackson Labs. It’s better than ESPN. It’s better than NBC. … But when you cut to the chase, it’s still corporate welfare. … This is a healthy company. They’ve got $6 billion in profits. That’s billion with a B. … If they do not create a single job, they’ll get 90 percent of that $400 million. That’s incredible. It’s a terrific deal for UTC.”

He added, “You’re talking about $400 million. You’re talking about a company with $6 billion in profits. That’s 7 or 8 percent of one year’s profits to build its headquarters. … This is a drop in the bucket for UTC. They could easily do this. … It makes me a little queasy to giving them $400 million to a company that said, “Any place but Connecticut.”

Guglielmo said, “This is not a sustainable course. We can’t keep throwing money at this large company and that large company.” Continue reading

State Issues First “Red Flag” Forest Fire Warning of the Season

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

If you thought all that snow and miserable, cold wet weather we had in the past few months would protect us from stuff like forest fires, think again.

State officials have issued a “Red Flag” danger alert Thursday, warning the risk of forest fires is “VERY HIGH.” (Those all-cap letters are the state’s.)

Connecticut DEEP photo.

Connecticut DEEP photo.

All burning permits for Thursday  were rescinded because of high, gusting winds and generally dry conditions.

According to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, officials don’t issue such warnings unless the average precipitation for the state during the previous five days was less than one-quarter of an inch, relative humidity is below 30 percent, and winds are gusting to 25 mph or higher.

Republicans Slam Democratic Retirement Savings Plan for Private Workers

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

HARTFORD – A Democratic plan to create a state-run pension program for thousands of private sector Connecticut workers who aren’t saving for retirement was the target for a harsh barrage of Republican criticism Thursday.

“This is yet another example of Democrats…believing government is the sole entity responsible for running every segment of our lives,” said Senate Republican Leader John McKinney of Fairfield.

Senate Republican Leader John McKinney. Hartford Courant photo.

Senate Republican Leader John McKinney. Hartford Courant photo.

McKinney, who is running for the GOP gubernatorial nomination this year, and a slew of other General Assembly Republicans and financial industry spokesmen took turns slamming the concept as ill-conceived and unworkable.

Democrats and their supporters, like the AARP, call the program something that would offer retirement help to an estimated 600,000 people in Connecticut who currently have no savings programs through their employers.

One key backer of the bill is Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven. He labeled the proposal “a modest pension system” that could assist both small businesses and their employees.

Continue reading

Rep. Terrie Wood Honored by Council of Family Services Agencies

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

State Rep. Terrie Wood, a Republican who represents Norwalk and Darien, was named family legislator of the year by the Connecticut Council of Family Services Agencies.

The group noted Woods’ work as co-chair of the Mental Health Working Group, which was formed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shootings.

Wood was instrumental in making sure mental health first aid was a part of the legislature’s response to the school shooting. She co-hosted an informational forum at the Capitol on mental health first aid and brought in certified instructors to explain its benefits.

The Connecticut Council of Family Service Agencies is a statewide network of fourteen independent, non-profit, organizations that deliver services to over 224,000 families annually from more than 100 sites located throughout Connecticut. For the past 26 years, the council has recognized a member of the General Assembly for their work responding to the needs of Connecticut’s families.

Wood will be honored at a reception at the Capitol on  April 28.

 

 

McKinney Says Pull Plug On Rebates As Taxes Lag After April 15 Deadline

by Categorized: 2014 Election, Gov. Dannel Malloy Date:

With state income tax collections lower than expected following the April 15 tax deadline, Senate Republican leader John McKinney called Wednesday for the governor to scrap his proposal for $55 tax rebates.

McKinney cited statistics from the legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal office that tracks the money being collected each day following the income tax deadline. Those collections, outlined in a memo by six staffers in the nonpartisan office, were nearly $205 million or 16.7 percent below the projections as of April 22.

“Please note that we still need $612.4 million to be collected by April 30 in order to reach our target,” said the memo by the office director, Alan Colandro, and the section chief in charge of taxes, Michael Murphy.

“A $55 rebate in lieu of permanent and meaningful tax cuts is an insult to taxpayers that should never have been proposed in the first place,” McKinney said in a statement. “Governor Malloy’s record tax hike has been estimated to cost as much as $700 per year per family at a time when our residents can least afford it. A $55 rebate isn’t even enough money to fill up most gas tanks, and certainly not enough to fill a tank in Connecticut where our gas taxes are among the highest in the nation.” Continue reading

Compromise On School-Ground Pesticide Ban Hits Senate Snag

by Categorized: Environment Tagged: Date:

A compromise effort to extend Connecticut’s current ban against using pesticides on school grounds hit a roadblock in the Senate Wednesday evening.

The state’s current law prohibits the use of pesticides on the grounds of schools for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. Environmental activists had wanted to expand the ban to high schools, public parks and playing fields, a plan fiercely opposed by many municipal officials and the lawn-care industry.

A watered-down compromise proposal that would have extended the pesticide ban only to high school grounds and to allow the use of certain non-toxic biological agents on school grounds to combat pests like grubs was brought up for debate in the Senate Wednesday. But even that more modest concept drew unexpected opposition from Sen. Steve Cassano, D-Manchester.

Cassano argued the legislature still doesn’t have the scientific study it was promised on the issue of pesticide use on school grounds. “We haven’t gotten what we should have gotten to make this decision,” said Cassano.

He said local officials have complained to him about the high cost of so-called “organic” pesticides that the bill would allow on school grounds, and worries about deteriorating conditions at some school fields because of the existing K-8 pesticide prohibition.

Sen. Edward Meyer, a Guilford Democrat and co-chair of the legislature’s Environment Committee, said Cassano’s opposition raised questions about whether there were enough votes to pass what Meyer called “a tamed-down bill.” Continue reading

House Approves Protections For Sales Of Municipal Scrap Metal

by Categorized: General Assembly Date:

With the theft of town-owned items on the rise, the state House of Representatives voted unanimously Wednesday to block junk dealers from buying from thieves who steal items like manhole covers and street signs.

The bill makes it illegal for junkyard owners, scrap-metal processors and other dealers from buying municipal property if they do not receive an authorized letter from the town regarding the sale. As such, the written authorization must be on the official town letterhead with the signature of a high-ranking local official.

The bill includes protections that prevent cash transactions for municipal items like guardrails, traffic control signals, and utility access covers. Instead, a check must be written to the town. 

“We have had a new cadre of thieves in the last 10 or 15 years,” said Rep. Steven Mikutel, a Griswold Democrat. “The temptation to steal municipal property will only increase because the price of scrap metal keeps going up and up. … It takes out the cash incentive. They can no longer give cash for that property. They have to send a check to the municipality.’’

Mikutel, a key proponent of the bill, said the legislature needed to take action “to stop the fleecing of municipalities. … When they steal municipal property, they’re stealing from your taxpayers.”

The bill, which passed by 143 to 0, now goes to the Senate for further action. Continue reading

Teaching Labor History In Public Schools Gets Senate Approval

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

Critics insisted it was a complete waste of time and political kowtowing to unions, but advocates of a bill requiring Connecticut public schools to teach the history of America’s labor movement convinced Senate lawmakers to approve the legislation on a bipartisan 25-10 vote Wednesday.

Image courtesy of Connecticut AFL-CIO.

Image courtesy of Connecticut AFL-CIO.

The bill now heads for the House where it faces an uncertain fate in these remaining weeks of the 2014 General Assembly session.

The nearly 90-minute Senate debate included lawmakers remembering how their fathers and grandfathers took part in union organizing, as well as odes to old-time labor leaders like Eugene Debs. Supporters insisted many kids today don’t realize the critical role the labor movement played in enacting protections for workers like the five-day work week and outlawing child labor. Continue reading

Two Ranking Education Members Blast ECSU Professor’s Rant Vs. GOP

by Categorized: 2014 Election, Brent Terry, Toni Boucher Date:

The two ranking members of the legislature’s higher education committee are blasting the state-paid Eastern Connecticut State University professor for his recent comments that sharply criticized Republicans.

State Sen. Toni Boucher of Wilton and Rep. Tim LeGeyt of Canton sent the letter to Professor Brent Terry, whose remarks prompted a firestorm of protest from Republicans. In recorded remarks, Terry said that “colleges will start closing up” if Republicans gain control of the U.S. Senate in the fall elections.

Terry is an adjunct professor in the English department, and the remarks were made during a creative writing class.

Copies of the letter were sent to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and others, including the two top Democratic leaders in the legislature – House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey and Senate President Pro Tem Donald Willliams.

Their letter is as follows:

“Dear Professor Terry,

“We often receive complaints by students and faculty who tell us they are fearful of expressing a conservative point of view or party affiliation, because of pressure and outright ridicule by peers and superiors at their schools. Your derogatory political statements against Republicans in front of your class are a stark example of an oppressive intellectual climate that many of these complainants feel they endure. This negative climate was further encouraged by an Eastern Connecticut State University spokesman who said, “Our faculty has academic freedom to conduct their classes in whatever way they choose, this is not a university matter.” We would maintain that it is a university matter and goes beyond the disappointment and concern expressed by Eastern Connecticut State University President Nunez.

“We have listened to a recording of your unfortunate remarks before a creative writing class at Eastern Connecticut State University. In this recording you unleash the following rant, that Republicans are “…racist, misogynist [woman-hating], money-grubbing people [who] have so much power over the rest of us.” You further comment that, “there are a lot of people out there that do not want black people to vote, do not want Latinos to vote. Do not want old people to vote, or young people to vote.”

“In case your students remained unsure of whom these racist misogynists are, you conclude your remarks by predicting, “It’s absolutely possible that the Republicans will take over the Senate as well as the House. And we will live in a very, very, very different kind of country if that happens. I mean, colleges will start closing up if they, if these people have their way.”

The letter continued, “This rant is offensive and an embarrassment in every respect. We are affronted by its prejudicial tone, and its one-sided and slanderous appraisal of Republicans as intolerant, anti-education bogeymen.” Continue reading