June 19, 2017

Fla. gov. seeks to lure more CT firms south

Fla. Gov. Scott visited Connecticut Monday.

Florida's appeals to get Connecticut companies to consider relocating south has more to do with this state's heavy regulation, taxation and overhead than the low-interest loans and other incentives the Sunshine State offers, Florida's governor says.

"A lot of business up here are frustrated,'' Gov. Rick Scott said Monday after a day spent crisscrossing Fairfield County, meeting with entrepreneurs, business leaders and policymakers. "They're tired of wrestling with taxes and heavy regulations.''

The loss of General Electric's corporate headquarters from Fairfield to Boston and Hartford insurance giant Aetna Inc.'s rumblings about moving its base to New York City has heightened tensions over Connecticut's economic-development model to attract and retain well-paid private-sector jobs.

Scott, a Republican who won the governorship in Nov. 2010 -- the same year as Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's first term as governor -- said that since he took office, Florida's economy has risen while Connecticut's has flatlined.

"First, I want to thank Gov. Malloy for taking a different path than me,'' he said of his business-recruiting strategy that has also taken Scott to other high-tax, high-regulation states as California, New York and Pennsylvania.

"I'm a business guy. I'd never run for office before this,'' Scott said. "I try to solve problems."

He claims 1.4 million net new jobs created in Florida, or a 3 percent annual growth rate vs. Connecticut's 1.1 percent job growth rate that still has not recovered all the jobs lost during the 2008-2010 Great Recession.

Moreover, Scott said, Florida went from a $4 billion deficit to now running a $3 billion surplus. The improvement, he said, is a direct result of his and his state's economic-development efforts.

Connecticut, by contrast, he said is still mired in a projected multi-billion-dollar deficit.

Scott's Connecticut visit comes at a crucial time for state budget- and policymakers and taxpayers, as it grapples to devise a biennial budget that is balanced as required by the state's constitution.

On Friday, Malloy spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly downplayed Scott's trip, suggesting he was "envious of what we have here."

"The truth is, no amount of money or effort will make up for the fact that Gov. Scott is leading his state in the wrong direction," Donnelly said. "We are happy to host Mr. Scott to show him a better way to serve his state, but if he's expecting anyone in Connecticut to buy what he's selling, he's better off saving his taxpayers the cost of the trip and staying home."

Joe Brennan, CEO of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said Monday he saw nothing wrong with Scott's business-recruiting mission to Connecticut.

"It's not unusual that our companies get recruited all the time -- and they stay here,'' Brennan said, adding that it is the quality of firms in Connecticut and their products that makes them so attractive.

Still, recruiting visits to Connecticut from economic-development officials from other states "highlights the intense competitive pressure on Connecticut'' to rights its fiscal ship and implement policies more conducive to business interests at home, Brennan said.

Earlier Monday, state Senate President Pro Tem Len Fasano (R-North Haven) had a public message for people and businesses contacted by Florida and other states:

"Do not give up on Connecticut,'' Fasano said. "... This new budget must, and will, send a message to everyone that we have changed course, that we are moving forward, and that our fiscal priorities are being realigned to strengthen our focus on enticing businesses and people to stay in our state."

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