Lamont: Business leaders key to CT stability
CT Post, March 1, 2019
By Ken Dixon
Infosys, a major information technology firm that already has pledged to create 1,000 new jobs in the Hartford area, will be doubling its commitment in the near future, Gov. Ned Lamont told a business audience Thursday. But the governor may have been overly enthusiastic.
An administration spokeswoman quickly clarified, saying that Infosys was in “productive talks” about expansion. The company had no immediate comment.
Lamont made his remarks about the India-based technology firm during an appearance before the MetroHartford Alliance at which he also urged business leaders to help him convince legislators to support a lean budget that limits borrowing, establishes tolls and positions Connecticut for future growth.
“Infosys is going to be doubling their commitment to the Greater Hartford area,” Lamont told nearly 400 members of the MetroHartford Alliance gathered at the Hartford Marriott. “We’ll be able to announce that in the next few weeks.”
While a gubernatorial candidate, Lamont played a role in attracting Infosys — an India-based information technology company — to select Hartford to host one of its new training centers in 2018.
Infosys, which opened the Hartford center in December, predicted the firm would hire about 1,000 employees over the next four years. It has developed a relationship with Trinity College and others to create a hiring pipeline.
“They are very positive on the Hartford market,” Lamont told reporters Thursday after his address. “They’ve had a great response from a lot of folks in that room today, and they’ve got a great relationship now with Trinity and they are looking to train even more people than they committed to just a year ago.”
Lamont offered no specifics on what what he meant by the company doubling its commitment, nor did he offer a timetable for its expansion. A spokesman for Infosys could not be reached for comment Thursday morning.
“I think within a few months, we’ll be able to say something definitive,” Lamont said.
In his address to business leaders, Lamont said they would play a crucial role in helping him bring long-term stability and a pro-growth environment to Connecticut.
“I made a deal with the taxpayers,” Lamont said. “I said, ‘I’m not interested in raising any tax rates. I’m not raising the income tax rate. … For me to do that, I’ve got to have you as my emissaries.”
Shortchanging contributions back to top
Connecticut governors and legislatures frequently shortchanged contributions to pensions and retirement healthcare programs between 1939 and 2010. As a result, these costs are projected to rise dramatically over the next decade-and-a-half.
These unfunded obligations, coupled with payments on Connecticut’s hefty bonded debt, consume nearly one-third of the budget’s General Fund, Lamont said, adding they are closer to 10 percent in many other states.
Legislators need to realize this is not “some iceberg over the horizon,” the governor added. “It’s something we have to deal with now. … Nobody wants to deal with the elephant in the room.”
Lamont’s solutions include repealing sales-tax exemptions to raise hundreds of millions of dollars and restructuring pension payments to shift hundreds of millions of dollars billions of dollars in costs onto a future generation of taxpayers. The governor said this, coupled with lean spending and borrowing now, will position Connecticut’s economy to grow.
Lamont also has proposed tolling on all vehicles to accelerate a long-deferred rebuild of Connecticut’s aging, overcrowded transportation infrastructure. The soonest tolls could be implemented is in 2023.
“I cannot think of another way that I have the wherewithal to make the investments we need to transform our transportation system,” he said. “And I need the help from the business community and I need the help from the labor community as we try to get this over the finish line, because it’s pretty contentious. “It’s ‘Oh my God, it’s another tax.’”
“We can’t get this state growing if we can’t get this state moving,” Lamont added, noting that the economy in Fairfield County — where congestion is among the worst — already is paying a steep price. “In Stamford you don’t show real estate during rush hour.”
And while while tolls likely would raise $800 million per year, Lamont estimated 40 percent of those receipts would come from out-of-state motorists.
The governor also urged businesses to assist in other ways besides lobbying lawmakers.
Because Connecticut must tighten spending on many programs if it hopes to pay its surging pension costs while keeping tax rates stable, Lamont said, that means he must lean more on the private sector.
When Amanda Jolly, program director for the World Affairs Council of CT, urged Lamont to market Connecticut to more international businesses, the governor said he is prepared to visit other countries to do so.
But Lamont also said Connecticut corporations should be doing that outreach as well, because under his administration the state will move away from the “loser’s strategy” of the past 20 years. That strategy, he added, has been to pay companies costly incentives to overlook the state’s weaknesses rather than simply marketing Connecticut’s strengths.