- Associated Press - Friday, June 5, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut’s largest business advocacy group asked Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Friday to convene a meeting as soon as possible to discuss the ramifications of the higher business taxes included in the new Democratic state budget.

Joseph Brennan, CEO of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said he has heard from companies that are considering moving out of state following passage of the two-year, $40.3 billion Democratic budget, which included numerous business-related tax changes and increases.

“Let’s try to stanch the bleeding here,” Brennan said. “In the highest reaches of a lot of companies, they are taking a serious look at other locations, either for their headquarters, production staff or whatever it might be.”

Mark Bergman, Malloy’s communications director, said the Democratic governor would be happy to meet with Brennan, someone he has met with previously. No date was announced.

Brennan’s request for a meeting comes as the General Assembly plans to meet again in a special legislative session. The regular session adjourned at midnight and lawmakers plan to take up at least two bills that spell out details of the budget agreement.

Brennan said he understands Democrats worked hard to secure enough votes to narrowly pass the budget on Wednesday and would be unenthusiastic about making major changes. But he said the reaction to the budget from members of the business community has been unprecedented in his 27 years at CBIA.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said he’s open to making minor changes. He noted how lawmakers “made a lot of tweaks” already to accommodate specific concerns when the fiscal package was originally up for a vote on Monday.

General Electric Co., Aetna Inc., the Travelers Companies Inc. and Boehringer Ingelheim issued statements this week criticizing the tax changes, with GE and Aetna saying they were considering moving operations out of Connecticut. GE informed its employees it has formed a company task force to explore its options.

“If GE were to leave our state it would truly be a disaster of epic proportions,” said Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, whose district includes the GE campus.

But both Sharkey and Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, expressed doubt the companies would leave Connecticut because of state taxes.

“This is a convenient way to blame someone else for their own corporate decisions to make changes using a stalking horse like a tax environment,” Sharkey said Thursday. “I say to them, ‘If you’re actually paying some taxes to the state of Connecticut then maybe you could use that as an argument.’ But clearly, that’s not the case and I think that’s true with most of the major corporations.’”

Besides the budget-related bills, lawmakers are supposed to meet to take up bills concerning excessive force by police and body cameras, conveyance of state land, bonding authorizations and school construction, and Malloy’s so-called Second Chance Society which, among other things, reclassifies drug possession as a misdemeanor.

No date for the special legislative session has been set yet.

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