Author Archives: Christopher Keating

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 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. Malloyo 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.”

Senate Republican leader John McKinney, who is running for governor, said he would support the bill in order to help the workers who are “the single greatest strength of the state of Connecticut.”

Saying that Pratt & Whitney received research and development tax credits in 1993, McKinney said that the people of Connecticut cannot “subsidize the operations of multi-billion-dollar corporations” every 20 years.

“I don’t accept that we always have to be a high-tax state,” McKinney said, referring to comments by Malloy that Connecticut will always be a high-tax state. “There’s no guarantee that Sikorsky will be at full employment in five years. … I’m frustrated that Pratt & Whitney can lay off jobs and still get the accelerated tax credits that they have earned. … We can’t leave here today and pat ourselves on the back and say, ‘We’re done.’ ”

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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

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

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

Brown Rudnick Annual Red Wine Night Thursday In A Capitol Tradition

by Categorized: Brown Rudnick Date:

In one of the longest-running Capitol traditions, the well-known lobbying and law firm of Brown Rudnick will be holding its annual “Red Wine Night” on Thursday in Hartford.

The night began with humble roots in the House Democratic caucus room on the second floor when Hartford’s Thomas D. Ritter was serving as House Speaker in the early 1990s.

Today, Ritter is a partner at Brown Rudnick, and the wine night has exploded in popularity and has become a tradition on the Capitol calendar.

The official legislative bulletin provides the details on the evening.

In very precise legal language that cites the Connecticut General Statutes, the announcement of the event states, “Red Wine Night is permissible under Connecticut ethics laws as a ‘legislative reception’ pursuant to C.G.S. Section 1-91 subsection (g) (10), and pursuant to C.G.S. Section 1-96d, the sponsors do not reasonably expect this event to be reportable pursuant to subsection (e) of section 1-96.” Continue reading

DePino Working As Top Volunteer For Eick In Treasurer Race Vs. Tim Herbst

by Categorized: 2014 Election, Chris DePino, Denise Nappier Date:

Timothy Herbst and Robert Eick both say the average taxpayer probably doesn’t know exactly what the state treasurer does.

They want to change that.

And they also both want to become the next state treasurer.

Herbst, 33, and Eick, 51, are battling for the Republican nomination to run against longtime Democratic incumbent Denise L. Nappier, who has won four consecutive election victories dating back to 1998. Nappier stands as the longest-serving of the state’s constitutional officers.

Neither Herbst nor Eick has an immediately recognizable political name because neither of them has held statewide office. Herbst serves as the three-term first selectman in Trumbull, a Fairfield County suburb with a population of about 36,000, while Eick is a longtime investment executive and movie investor who has never held public office.

Former fashion executive Jack C. Orchulli, a Republican who lost the U.S. Senate race in 2004 against incumbent Democrat Christopher J. Dodd, recently dropped out of the treasurer’s race after saying he had difficulty raising money under the state’s public financing system.

The Republicans have not won the treasurer’s race since 1994, when Christopher B. Burnham emerged victorious. It was a big year for Republicans nationally and in Connecticut when they won the governor’s office and captured the majority in the state Senate.

State Republican chairman Jerry Labriola said Nappier’s record has prompted multiple candidates to seek the office, despite Orchulli’s recent departure.

“Thanks to over a decade of Denise Nappier’s mishandling of our state’s finances, our credit rating has been downgraded repeatedly and our state’s pension fund is on the brink of insolvency,” said Labriola.

Nappier declined several requests for comment.

With one of the best years on Wall Street in 2013, the state pension fund grew by nearly $3 billion in a single year to $28.2 billion at the end of last year. The fund, which provides pensions for legislators, judges, teachers, and state employees, was about $17.5 billion when Nappier was running for the job in late 1998.

In the ongoing battle for delegates, Herbst has strength among fellow first selectmen and mayors, including an endorsement by Erin Stewart, the mayor of New Britain who is viewed by supporters as a rising star in the Republican Party. He is also being backed by Republican insiders that include Newtown first selectman Pat Llodra, Stratford mayor John Harkins, and former Torrington mayor Ryan Bingham. The mayors all have ties to the delegates who will be choosing the party’s candidate at the state convention on May 17.

Eick’s best-known volunteer is former state GOP chairman and former New Haven legislator Chris DePino, who introduced Eick around the Capitol on opening day this year. Continue reading

State Capitol To Be Closed For Good Friday

by Categorized: General Assembly, Gov. Dannel Malloy, Toni Harp Date:

The state Capitol will be closed for Good Friday, which is a state holiday.

There are no committee meetings or public hearings listed on the official legislative schedule that is published daily during the General Assembly session.

UPDATE: Away from the Capitol, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman traveled to New Haven for a press conference Friday with the new mayor, Toni Harp, regarding increasing funding for legal services for the poor.

House Unanimously Approves Limited Liability For Horse Owners

by Categorized: General Assembly Date:

The state House of Representatives voted unanimously Thursday for a bipartisan bill that reduces the liability of horse owners in civil lawsuits.

The bill was prompted by a high-profile lawsuit that reached the Connecticut Supreme Court regarding the liability of horse owners, and the legislative measure was expanded to include ponies, donkeys, and mules. The state’s highest court had ruled against the owners of a horse that had bitten a two-year-old child on the cheek in 2006 at a Milford garden center.

Both Republicans and Democrats joined together in the 138 to 0 vote that was preceded by a debate that mentioned the lengthy battle in the Superior, Appellate, and Supreme courts that prompted the bill.

Rep. John Shaban, a Republican attorney from Redding, said, “It’s a common-sense measure to push back an errant body of case law.”

Rep. DebraLee Hovey, a Monroe Republican, said the state Supreme Court is “a group of individuals who know very little about the industry” of horses.

Rep. Steven Mikutel, a Griswold Democrat, said, “To label a whole species of horse as vicious or dangerous is ridiculous. … You might as well say dogs can be inherently vicious or cats can be inherently vicious.” Continue reading

Cafero Says UTC Could Lay Off Workers And Still Get 35 Percent of Tax Credits

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

With bipartisan support, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Thursday in favor of a deal to allow Hartford-based United Technologies Corp. to use state tax credits as it seeks to build a new headquarters for the famed Pratt & Whitney division in East Hartford.

The bill passed by 134 to 4 with four Republicans voting against the measure. All Democrats present in the chamber voted in favor.

House Republican leader Larry Cafero said Thursday that UTC, under the bill, could lay off 1,650 workers and still get 35 percent of the state-paid tax credits that are being debated by the state legislature.

“Huh?” Cafero asked on the floor of the House at the state Capitol during the debate.

“That’s the part that bothered me,” Cafero said. “My concern is, what if it goes wrong?”

The deal that was crafted by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration has been widely praised by both business and labor, as well as Democrats and Republicans in Cafero’s own caucus.

“I hope I can be comforted and not so confused,” Cafero told his colleagues Thursday. “I encourage all of us to get those answers to those questions.”

“Let’s be honest. It’s about UTC and UTC alone,” Cafero said. “If this bill passes, God bless them. I wish them all the luck in the world.” Continue reading

Republicans Offer Alternative Budget That Would Eliminate Rebates, Keno, and EITC

by Categorized: 2014 Election, Ben Barnes, Brendan Sharkey, Gov. Dannel Malloy, John McKinney, Keno, Larry Cafero Date:

With less than three weeks remaining in the legislative session, Republicans offered an alternative budget Thursday that rejects Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s $55 tax rebates and eliminates keno gambling.

The Republican plan would save the state more than $120 million per year by eliminating the state earned income tax credit for the working poor, but that idea was immediately criticized by Democrats.

Republicans said they were offering a gimmick-free alternative to the second year of the two-year budget that restores funding to multiple accounts that include transportation and clean energy.

“This is an honest approach that eliminates the ugly gimmicks and ‘techniques’ that have been employed to balance the budget only on paper,” said House Republican leader Larry Cafero of Norwalk. “Absent the gimmicks, the Democratic budget would be $150 million over the spending cap and out of balance.”

Republicans also blasted the statements by the Malloy administration, citing a University of Connecticut economist, that sending the rebate checks back to residents would stimulate the economy so much that it would create 1,200 new jobs.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” said Senate Republican leader John McKinney of Fairfield. “Show me those jobs that are created. … You can’t make this stuff up. Real people in the real world don’t believe that adding that money [from rebates] creates jobs.”

Cafero asked, “If you got another 55 bucks, that’s all of a sudden going to create 1,200 jobs? What world does that happen in?”

But Malloy’s budget director, Ben Barnes, said that the Republican proposal falls short on several points as “a political document that’s heavy on rhetoric” that was produced “after months of grandstanding” against Malloy’s budget.

“Perhaps most troubling, it includes a $120 million tax increase on Connecticut’s working poor by eliminating the EITC, what Ronald Reagan called ‘the best antipoverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress,’ ” Barnes said.

Barnes continued, “It also contains $54.8 million in phantom spending cuts that are not detailed anywhere.  Finally, it does all this and yet their bottom line spending is less than 0.1 percent different from the Governor’s proposed budget. So much for cutting spending.”

The detailed Republican proposal includes more than 400 line items of cuts and additions in a wide variety of state departments, covering environmental protection, corrections, public safety, education, labor, transportation, motor vehicles, criminal justice, public health, and children and families. 

Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, the highest-ranking senator, said, “I didn’t see any bold ideas proposed by the Republicans. … After a big buildup, I think it was a big letdown.” Continue reading