They compete against each other to lure businesses to their states, but the three governor’s attending the National Governors Association first regional summit in Hartford Tuesday were also open to sharing strategies that work.
While each state is different they all share the desire to get America back to work, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said.
As governors “we want to help the private sector grow and create new opportunities for our citizens,” he said.
But Nebraska’s approach has been somewhat different than Connecticut’s.
“We’ve been successful over the past seven years because we’ve modernized our state’s economic incentive programs. We passed the largest tax relief package in the state. We’ve controlled our expenses and we’ve invested, in my opinion, the top two priorities that are key: education and jobs,” Heineman said. “The end result for us is the an unemployment rate that is the second lowest in the nation at 4.2 percent.”
A spokeswoman for Heineman said Nebraska also operates on a two-year budget cycle. She said out of a two-year $7 billion budget for the state of about 1.8 million people, Heinemen was able to reduce taxes $425 million.
Connecticut, on the other hand with a population of 3.5 million, had the largest increase in taxes in the state’s history, passing a two-year, $40.1 billion budget with close to $2.6 billion in taxes.
“I believe we’re moving in the right direction and the reason I did what I did with respect to the budget is so I could look business in the face and say, ‘Listen I believe we’ve got the bulk of our problem behind us. We balanced a budget. We‘ve taken the steps necessary to wrestle the structural deficit to the ground and we move forward‘,“ Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said defending his budget.
John R. Rathgeber, president and CEO of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said taxes are really important, but they’re not everything.
“The bigger issue is proving good stewardship of public funds to avoid future tax increases,” Rathgeber said. He acknowledged that Malloy inherited a large deficit that needed to be addressed.
He said the state’s ability to compete will be a determining factor in the state’s ability to grow jobs and costs are always a consideration for businesses looking to relocate, but every industry is different.
Heineman said the impact lowering taxes in his state had was the business community’s perception of the state. He said Nebraska was never in the top 10 of business friendly states, but since the tax reduction CNBC rankings has the state in the top 10. In that same poll Connecticut ranks 38 out of 50 states.
“It’s all of these things combined. It’s taxes, it’s regulation, it’s workforce development, it’s education. All of these factors come into play,” Heineman said.
Malloy spent some of the morning talking about how he was able to get Jackson Laboratories, headquartered in Bar Harbor, Maine, to construct 30 new laboratories at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. The state’s investment in that project includes $291 in state funds, $192 million in a construction loan, and $99 million in a research partnership. Jackson Laboratories will invest about $809 million in the project.
Malloy was also able to get CIGNA to move its headquarters back to the state after offering the company between $50 and $71 million in tax incentives to create 200 to 800 jobs over the next few years.
“I think we all find ways to compete,“ Malloy said. “Jack [Delaware Gov. Jack Markell] said earlier and I think we’d all agree, I think we’d all love if we didn’t have to have any incentives. If we leveled the playing field, by leveling the playing field as opposed to having to have tools. So the necessity is we have to have tools.”
“We’ve lost companies and jobs to other New England states and we’ve gained jobs,” Malloy said. “It’s a big country. We’re a little tiny region.”
While lowering taxes over the next year and a half are not necessarily an option, Malloy said he’s not embarrassed to say he will be stealing at least one idea from Heineman. He said he will be organizing a trip for business officials from overseas to come to the state to see what it has to offer.
Heineman called it his “reverse trade mission.” He brought business executives from 15 different countries to Nebraska to show them what his state had to offer.