The governor’s ‘180’ on Oxford Airport

This week, Gov. Dannel Malloy said he thinks developing the area surrounding Oxford Airport is a good idea.

About two weeks ago, the governor vetoed a bill that would do just that.

Why the sudden change of heart?

That was the question many greater Waterbury residents were left asking after the governor’s 180-degree turn.

The original bill, which I co-sponsored with Rep. David Labriola, Rep. Arthur O’Neill, and Rep. Anthony D’Amelio:

  • Offered tax exemptions and tax credits to manufacturers and other eligible businesses that develop or acquire property in designated tracts in Oxford, Southbury and Middlebury.
  • Was modeled after the already existing Bradley Airport enterprise zone.
  • Cost a mere $75,000 to implement. That’s quite a bargain when you consider that, Gov. Malloy just approved a deal that could send up to $71 million in taxpayers’ dollars to a single greater Hartford insurance giant.
  • Was approved unanimously by the Senate and sailed through the House on 145-1 vote.
  • Was widely praised for its potential to create jobs in Oxford, Middlebury and Southbury. Democrat legislators, particularly Rep. Jeffrey Berger and Speaker of the House Christopher Donovan, were key backers of the legislation.

It all seemed like a no-brainer, and we were stunned when the governor described the bill as “premature” and said he wanted to wait until the recently created Connecticut Airport Authority came up with a more detailed plan before authorizing the tax exemptions.

Premature? What was the governor waiting for?

Had he not seen the 11.2 percent unemployment rate in greater Waterbury? 
 Had he not been on a “Jobs Tour” of the state, saying that Connecticut is open for business? Had he not taken note that the airport is situated at a convenient, accessible location just off of I-84 and that its surrounding area is ripe for growth?

To put it mildly, we were disappointed and confused. It appeared that the governor was saying one thing and doing another. It appeared that he was allowing a golden opportunity to create jobs to pass by.

But then, days later, the governor changed his economic development tune. He announced he would help create jobs around the area of the airport along with – wait for it – other Democratic state lawmakers.

That was when our governor showed his cards. Allow me to translate that gubernatorial message for you. The governor was telling us that when this bill was a Republican idea that passed nearly unanimously in the legislature, it was bad, and now that it is the governor’s idea, it’s good.

To recap: We have gone from “this idea is premature” to “let’s pursue this idea at full throttle.”

Well, it’s good to see the governor has finally come around.

President Harry S Truman once said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Those words ring true in this situation. We will embrace the governor’s 180-degree turn and give him all the credit he wants, because we want what’s best for our district. He should have all the ribbon-cutting, ground-breaking and dedication ceremonies he desires. In the end, the governor’s 180-degree turn will mean jobs for our area, and that’s what matters most.

That being said, it has become clear that Governor Malloy is flying by the seat of his pants when it comes to economic development policy. The policy, from what I can see, is one that picks winners and losers. Here’s a thought: Why can’t we just make Connecticut a better, more hospitable place for businesses – all businesses – to grow and thrive? Instead, consider what has happened in the past six months:

  • The state tax on businesses has been doubled.
  • Our gas tax is now the highest in the contiguous 48 states.
  • The largest tax hike in state history was approved: $3.7 billion in new taxes over the next two years.
  • We have a new law which requires businesses of 50 employees or more to offer paid sick time or face a fine. No other state has such an onerous mandate on the books.

It’s a pretty abysmal record. While the governor’s actions regarding the Oxford Airport development issue are transparent, at least it is a step in the right direction. He has a long journey ahead of him, but we will continue to work with him for the betterment of our region.

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