June 17, 2013

Malloy: Don’t mess with Connecticut

Photo | CNN
Photo | CNN
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, shown here during his 2012 presidential campaign, is coming to Connecticut to entice manufacturers to move south.

Texas isn't all it's cracked up to be, at least according to the Connecticut governor.

On the eve of the Texas governor coming to poach Connecticut jobs and on the heels of a legislative session attacked by the business community, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is making it clear companies are better off sticking with the Nutmeg State.

"It is amazing how short people's memory is," Malloy said. "Connecticut has its strengths, and Texas has its strengths."

Rick Perry, the Texas governor and 2012 presidential candidate, is touring Connecticut and New York this week, trying to recruit gun makers and any other industries that feel slighted by Northeast governments. Perry is preaching a message of no state income tax, predictable regulation, and fair courts. His tour is augmented by several radio and television commercials.

"I think he is really coming to Connecticut to congratulate us on getting the Cigna headquarters here and getting ESPN's digital operations here, both of which considered Texas before deciding on Connecticut," Malloy said.

Malloy made it clear quality of life in Connecticut is certainly better than Texas.

"Maybe he can talk about Texas' higher crime rate, the higher murder rate, and higher assault rate," Malloy said. "Also, low educational achievement."

Texas does have higher crime, violent crime, and murder rates, and Connecticut has a higher percentage of high school and college graduates, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Malloy said Connecticut will be an active recruiter for Texas talent, especially for university faculty for Bioscience Connecticut and UConn's $1.5 billion expansion in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics curriculum.

"I guarantee you we will be poaching faculty from Texas for UConn," Malloy said. "We just won't be doing a public relations campaign to do it."

Perry's office declined to comment.

Despite Malloy's feelings about Texas, the Connecticut governor needs to understand the business realities of his state, said Joe Brennan, senior vice president of public policy for the Connecticut Business & Industry Association.

Although Perry's tour is high profile, Connecticut companies are being courted by many other states, Brennan said.

Manufacturers, in particular, are targeted by southern states with North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Florida, and Georgia as the heaviest recruiters, according to a survey from the Manufacturing Alliance of Connecticut.

"It is a wake-up call for the challenges we have to address more directly," Brennan said. "You have to address these challenges so you don't have the Rick Perrys of the world coming to take your companies."

The General Assembly legislative session that ended June 5 shook the confidence of Connecticut's business community, Brennan said.

The state budget included a 10 percent increase in spending and extended three taxes on businesses that were supposed to expire June 30: a 20 percent surcharge on corporate income tax, a reduction in the tax credit amount that can be taken off insurance premiums, and a tax on power generation.

"In a word, there was disappointment," Brennan said. "We know it is difficult to come up with a state budget, but the biggest single barrier to growing the economy is confidence."

Malloy said the legislative session had plenty for businesses to be confident about.

The $1.5 billion investment in UConn's STEM curriculum will ensure companies, particularly manufacturers, will have the talent the workforce needed for the next generation.

"We've heard loud and clear in the state that talent is the No. 1 reason businesses are here," said Catherine Smith, commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

The extension of the First Five program and other tax credits mean the state government can continue to help out businesses.

Continued funding of the Manufacturers Assistance Act means DECD can dole out incentives and grow the industry in the state.

"Quietly, underneath the surface, there was a lot this session to help business," Smith said.

Malloy's effort to reduce energy costs for businesses through the passage of his comprehensive energy strategy earned CBIA's support. That plan includes expanding natural gas heating, increasing energy efficiency, and keeping the cost of renewables in check.

"This is all a strategy of playing to the economy rather than playing to the media," Smith said.

Malloy said Perry's visit will yield little results because it is more about the Texas governor's political ambitions than anything.

"Look, this guy wants to run for president, and this is how he wants to run," Malloy said.

Despite the high profile of the governor's office, Malloy said his ambitions don't match those of the Texas governor.

"No, I don't want to run for president," Malloy said.

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