Connecticut lawmakers were back at the state capitol on Wednesday as they were voting on a special mega deal that would keep 8,000 jobs in state.
A special session started on Wednesday morning that will include an effort to keep helicopter maker Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford.
The deal passed the Senate 35-1 on Wednesday afternoon. Sen. Joe Markley (R-Southington) was the only no vote.
It then passed the House, 136-6, with 8 not voting.
With Sikorsky's parent company, Lockheed Martin, prepared to begin cutting jobs, Gov. Dannel Malloy said he was compelled to act. He said the state reached an agreement which now needs approval of state lawmakers.
Under the deal, the state would pony up to $220 million in incentives, including tax breaks and grants for benchmarks in job growth, payroll and using local suppliers.
Also part of the agreement, its headquarters will remain in Connecticut through 2032, along with an agreement to build nearly 200 CH-53-K King Stallion helicopters for the U.S. Navy.
“The King Stallion helicopter is the only helicopter of its type in the world, and it is being built right here in Connecticut because we have the skilled workforce capable of producing the next generation helicopter. The economic impact of this project will create and sustain thousands in the manufacturing supply chain across all corners of the state for years to come. Sikorsky has agreed to increase its spending with Connecticut subcontractors from $300 million per year beginning in 2019 to $470 million per year beginning in 2030 – an impressive increase that will benefit workers and support thousands of jobs," Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) said in a statement on Wednesday.
The company would also retain and grow its full-time workforce with a target of 8,000 workers. Some state leaders said the impact of Sikorsky's commitment has a ripple effect on jobs from its many suppliers.
“This proposal represents a landmark victory not only for the eight thousand workers at Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin but for the small businesses, machine shops and workers across the entire supply chain. Hundreds of suppliers throughout the state will benefit from a strong Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin partnership with the State of Connecticut, and that means keeping good-paying jobs here in Connecticut for today’s workforce and tomorrow’s graduates," Senate President Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven) said in a statement on Wednesday.
Republicans want this special session to address more than the Sikorsky deal. They want to discuss the state's bonding issues and employee contracts.
This deal seems to be one of those rare times where both Democrats and Republicans agree this is a good deal for the state.
"I think it's a good economic driver for the state of Connecticut. You have a known company with a good track record for 20 years like the black hawk," Minority Leader Len Fasano said. "This is a new helicopter nothing like this exists. This is another generation of helicopters built in Connecticut."
Markley explained why he voted against the deal.
“There’s an old adage which we would do well to remember: when you’re in a hole, stop digging,” Markley said in a statement on Wednesday. “Every year since I returned to the legislature in 2010, Connecticut has faced a deficit. The red ink is predicted to run over our state’s balance sheets for years into the future. The first thing I ask is: ‘How can we afford this?’”
Some lawmakers told Eyewitness News they’ve gotten calls from constituents critical of the deal because the deal gives millions when the state is in tough financial shape. But without a deal, those jobs probably would left the state something lawmakers didn't want to see happen. A $2.7 billion deficit was expected for 2018 and 2019.
“I dare say that we have this all backwards. We ought to cut taxes and government so businesses will stay without these handouts. Instead, we tax regular working people, and then use their money to bribe their employers to not lay them off," Markley said.
“This agreement not only ensures Sikorsky’s commitment to our state remains strong and will grow here in the future, but also shows that Connecticut is successfully competing with other states. Along with Sikorsky’s hundreds of sub-contractors and suppliers, this will benefit thousands of hard working families throughout our entire state, and just like Pratt & Whitney’s recent job announcement, shows that Connecticut’s business climate continues to improve," said Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden).
“Today’s vote in the Connecticut General Assembly is welcome news for Connecticut’s economy and the thousands of hardworking men and women who build the most advanced helicopters in the world. Over the last several months, I have worked with representatives from the unions, Sikorsky, Lockheed Martin, and the state to ensure that this helicopter will be built right here in Connecticut. Under this deal, I am confident Stratford will continue to play a major role in manufacturing the next generation of world-class helicopters," said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03).
Lockheed Martin faces an Oct. 7 deadline to report back to the Department of Defense. Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas all made bids for Lockheed Martin, which purchased Sikorsky last year.
The special session started at 9 a.m.
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