From the Office of State Senator Kevin Witkos
On Wednesday, October 26th, the General Assembly came together for a special session to discuss and vote on two major legislative bills. In the matter of about nine hours, the Senate passed both bills totaling nearly $1 billion in spending. One bill allocated $291 million to Jackson Laboratory, a Maine-based biomedical company, to create a facility in Farmington and employ 300 people in 10 years. The second bill was a $701 million package designed to foster job creation in Connecticut. While both bills contained some good ideas, I opposed them both because I could not justify spending so much taxpayer money for so little return.
I explained my opposition to the bill in a speech on the floor of the State Senate, and I will share part of my thought process with you in this column. My criticisms are centered in that many of these costly initiatives will have little to no effect on the economy in the near future.
The Senate first voted on whether or not we should provide incentives worth nearly $300 million to bring Jackson laboratory to our state. As a research institution on the forefront of genomic medicine, Jackson Labs is developing personalized medicine that is matched specifically to one’s individual genetics. Many consider this technology to be the future of medicine. During these cash-strapped times, however, the state should be tightening its belt instead of giving out large taxpayer-funded loans to risky projects. If the deal falls apart, the state could lose much of its investment. And, for nearly $300 million, the deal itself promises only 300 jobs over the next ten years – a dismal return on investment by my estimation.
Job creation is extremely important in our communities. When a parent loses their job or they cannot find a job, the entire family is affected. It is imperative that the state legislature act responsibly in improving the business climate and spurring job creation. After reviewing the details of the jobs bill, I found issue with a number of provisions. Some have no reason being in a jobs bill, while others are well-intentioned but flawed.
The objective of the jobs special session was to provide immediate help to job creators and the unemployed. This bill will not achieve that objective. For example, the bill lessens the business entity tax by half. The problem, however, is that the reduction does not take place for two years. Business owners will not feel any effect from this measure until they file their taxes in year three. If we want to boost hiring today, why are we delaying this provision for so long?
There is also a new initiative to redevelop brownfields, which are abandoned and polluted industrial properties. It would be excellent to clean up these old and unused resources, but we already have a $17.5 million superfund program with 13 designated projects that was designed to deal with this problem. Nearby in Canton, the Swift Chemical facility has been a part of the program for 12 years and it hasn’t been touched. Why not use the $17.5 million already allocated to these projects instead of creating and funding a new program?
In the end, it comes down to price. The state simply cannot continue down this path of insatiable spending. The nearly $700 million to be borrowed through bonding to fund the jobs package will result in a payment of about $1.1 billion after interest is included. We now know that the state agencies are unwilling to make any significant cuts to limit state spending. This means that the funds will have to come from elsewhere, namely taxpayers. Governor Malloy has said that there will be no more tax increases, but we will all be forced to pay more without significant cuts in state spending.
As legislators, we make decisions every day. Every time I enter the Senate Chamber, I ask myself important and necessary questions. Is this bill going to help or hurt my constituents? What is best for Connecticut? After reading the bill and reviewing all the facts, I decided that it was not in the best interest of my constituents and I voted against it. Times are tough for everyone. It’s time for the state to put the credit card away and get out of the way of businesses. If we want to spur job creation, we need to lower taxes and reduce regulations in a more immediate and cost-effective way. Following the devastating snowstorm that crippled our district, it’s especially time to reconsider how we’re spending taxpayer money to benefit the state.