In June when lawmakers passed a state budget that would increase corporate business taxes, General Electric, one of the most vocal critics of the budget deal, announced it was exploring a move to another state.
News reports have now surfaced suggesting that GE is doing exactly that, but it is unclear whether Connecticut is trying and convince them to stay.
The Connecticut Post reported Wednesday that Fairfield First Selectman Michael Tetreau said he was expecting Connecticut to offer GE a package of economic incentives to stay. GE is reportedly the town’s largest property taxpayer.
But, at least on Friday, the Malloy administration wasn’t offering specifics.
“While we cannot disclose conversations with individual companies, we always fight aggressively to cultivate growth among companies already here as well as attract new ones,” James Watson, a spokesman for the Department of Economic and Community Development, said Thursday.
GE has been headquartered in Fairfield for 41 years and is exploring a move to Atlanta, according to a report from Bloomberg News. The company also has been meeting with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, according to reports from Capital New York.
GE, which employs 5,700 people in Connecticut in several locations, has not been quiet about its desire to relocate its operations.
“We have formed an exploratory team to look into the company’s options to relocate corporate HQ,” the company said in June. “It is too soon to comment further on the process.”
GE CEO Jeff Immelt sent an email to his Connecticut employees in June lamenting 10 “tough” years trying to maximize profits in the state.
Citing the tax package recently endorsed by the legislature, Immelt said the proposed tax increase of approximately $1.3 billion will be the second highest in the state’s history behind the $2 billion tax hike passed in 2011.
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said that if the reports about GE relocating are true, then Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration should tell lawmakers if they plan on making a counter-offer.
Fasano also chided the legislative Democrats for accusing GE of bluffing about the relocation efforts because they felt the tax package they passed wouldn’t have the detrimental impact the business community has described.
He said if Democratic lawmakers truly feel GE won’t be impacted by the new state budget, then “why is Gov. Malloy prepping a taxpayer-funded aid package for GE less than two months after he signed the state budget into law?”
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said he’s confused by Fasano’s remarks.
“First Senator Fasano says we ought to do everything possible to keep GE in Connecticut; Then when he learns the state is doing just that, he complains?” Sharkey said.
He said if there’s something the state can do to keep GE in Connecticut, then that should be explored. In the meantime, Sharkey said, the Republicans should stop “rooting for failure.”
Other Republicans have suggested that the impact of losing GE would be more significant than the company’s roster of 5,700.
In June, Rep. John Frey, R-Ridgefield, suggested GE’s relationships with suppliers and vendors around the state represent a much larger ancillary impact.
“We’re talking 50,000 employees that are either directly or indirectly related to GE,” Frey told the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. “That’s terrifying.”