If the General Assembly holds a special session to approve a package of economic incentives for Lockheed Martin, Republican legislative leaders said Wednesday that it should be expanded to include a handful of other proposals.
“We cannot wait until next session to talk about the issues and try to change the course and direction of our state,” Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides wrote in their letter to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
They said the deal Malloy’s administration struck to make sure a line of Sikorsky helicopters is produced in Connecticut is a “required investment,” but that Democrats should seize the moment and expand the call of a special session to include a laundry list of items, such as a requirement that the legislature vote on every union contract and cap the amount of bonding the state plans on doing.
Malloy announced the deal to ensure Lockheed Martin keeps Sikorsky headquarters in Connecticut for more than a decade on Tuesday. He followed up on that announcement with a press conference Wednesday at the Stratford-based facility where the 200 CH-53K King Stallion Helicopters will be built. The General Assembly is expected to hold a special session next week to vote on the $220 million deal.
In exchange for the state assistance, the company is expected to increase its full-time employment in Connecticut by more than 8,000 by 2032. It will also nearly double its spending of $350 million per year with local Connecticut suppliers and increase its capital spending for machinery and equipment by 22 percent.
Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for Malloy, said Republican legislative leaders were in the room when Lockheed Martin executives made it very clear they want a “clear bill in a special session.” The bill would need to be passed before Oct. 7 in order for Lockheed Martin to meet U.S. Department of Defense production requirements.
“Those executives made a very clear and specific ask of everyone present,” Donnelly said. “They asked us to partner with them by showing a united front on one simple, clear bill in a special session – a bill to keep Sikorsky headquartered and manufacturing in Connecticut. They said that doing otherwise would put jobs at risk.”
She said the Republicans leaders decision to create “uncertainty with a ‘glass half empty’ mentality is exactly what sends a bad signal to our business community. We believe the Connecticut General Assembly can and will be a partner in keeping Lockheed and Sikorsky in Connecticut, with or without the ‘leadership’ of Sen. Fasano and Rep. Klarides.”
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, called the Republicans suggestion to expand the call of the special session “appalling” and “reckless.”
“The Republicans cannot accept good news because it does not fit their negative narrative,” Looney said. “It is absolutely appalling that the Republican leaders, for their own political purposes, would endanger eight thousand jobs at Sikorsky and thousands of more across their supply chain in Connecticut.Their political rhetoric does not match the needs of Connecticut.”
Fasano acted surprised by the reaction.
“Boy, did we ever strike a frayed Democratic nerve with Sen. Looney,” Fasano said. “Republicans are simply offering a conversation, followed by a potential vote, on reasonable policies of bipartisan ideas which we could bring out in addition to taking up the separate Sikorsky bill.”
Many of the items Fasano listed as items they wanted to be part of an expanded call are included in the agenda his caucus released last week.
Looney, who noted it’s an election year in which Connecticut’s business lobby is supporting mostly Republican candidates, said the good news about job creation at Pratt & Whitney, Electric Boat and now Sikorsky “represents a stunning repudiation of the desperate death spiral narrative the Republicans have been pushing.”
Fasano said they were just looking to have a conversation.
“Are conversations now considered ‘reckless’?,” Fasano said. “Is asking Democrats to vote on policies they are talking about in the newspaper ‘appalling’? Wow.”
Republican legislative leaders in their letter to Malloy also pointed out that Democrats, after six years of controlling both the General Assembly and the governor’s office, own Connecticut’s current economic status.
Republicans would need to pick up four seats in the Senate to win a majority and 12 in the House.