Big business delivers big blow to state budget deal

- FILE - Aetna campus in Hartford (WTNH)

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Two of Connecticut’s corporate giants, G.E. and Aetna, have flexed their muscle and landed a direct punch at the state. These big, iconic corporations have never publicly threatened a Governor and the General Assembly before, and their threats made Monday have stopped the budget deal dead in its tracks.

State lawmakers went home early Tuesday morning without the big budget bill ever coming up for discussion on the floor because the deal that Governor Malloy agreed to with the Democratic leaders of the Assembly over the weekend unraveled and the vote in the House was postponed.

The deal unraveled following a statement from Hartford-based Aetna. The insurance giant said that the increase in corporate taxes in the plan would result in Aetna looking to reconsider the viability of continuing major operations in the state. The statement followed by just hours a similar statement from Fairfield-based General Electric. G.E., with thousands of high paying jobs, said those proposed taxes would cause them to seriously consider whether it makes any sense to continue to be located in the state.

“To have this massive tax increase right now, I think really upset people more than they’ve ever been upset before,” said Joe Brennan of the state’s largest business organization, the CT Business and Industry Association.

A third statement from Hartford-based Travelers, sponsor of the state’s largest sporting event, June’s P.G.A. tournament, seemed to put the final dagger in the deal.

“Coming after the largest tax increase in state history just four years ago (and) knowing that we have the highest unemployment rate in New England, we haven’t gained jobs back from the last recession equal to the U.S. or the other states in the region,” said Brennan.

“We might as well just take a sign and say ‘get out’ because that’s the message we send when we do what we do and the policies we make and the budgets we pass,” said House Minority Leader, Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby.

Another mega company joined the chorus, saying these tax hikes are too much.

“The current proposal will undermine the financial feasibility of continued capital investments at our Ridgefield/Danbury site,” said Boehringer Ingelheim, a big drug company, in a release late Tuesday afternoon.

Lawmakers are considering raising the cigarette tax and taxing the internet for things like digital downloads in order to reduce the proposed tax hikes on business.

The General Assembly Session ends at midnight on Wednesday. If no budget deal is reached, lawmakers will have to go into a special session.

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