Florida's governor on Monday made his second public pitch in two years to Connecticut businesses, urging them to leave a state that has seen two major corporate headquarters recently leave or threaten to leave.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott told about two dozen business officials at a gathering in Norwalk they should "go ahead and give up" on Connecticut and move to Florida, where regulations and taxes have been reduced under his administration.
"I've reduced taxes, he's increased taxes," said Scott, referring to Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, in an interview with The Associated Press. Just like his visit in 2015, Scott ticked off the advantages he claims Florida has for businesses versus Connecticut, including the lack of an income tax, a state budget surplus, a growing labor force and a lower jobless rate.
"I would love every company in Connecticut to think about moving to Florida. ... I know there's a lot of businesspeople upset up here," Scott said, when asked if the recent news that health insurer Aetna Inc. is in negotiations with several states to move its headquarters out of Hartford prompted his latest visit. Last year, corporate giant General Electric announced it was moving its corporate headquarters from suburban Fairfield, Connecticut to Boston.
Joe Brennan, president and chief executive officer of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said he's not aware of any uptick in other states attempting to poach Connecticut employers since the news of GE and Aetna. He said his members are contacted regularly, particularly from states in the South.
"That's been going on for years. That's nothing new," he said. "In some ways, you can look at it as a badge of honor, because we have so many great companies here."
Malloy spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly said "it's no wonder" Scott would look to Connecticut and be "envious" of its high quality of life, good schools and skilled workforce.
Scott's highly publicized "economic development mission" to Connecticut still caused some concern among state lawmakers, who have yet to reach an agreement with Malloy on a new two-year budget that will cover a projected $5 billion deficit. The typical two-year budget is roughly $40 billion. Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano urged both businesses and individuals who've been contacted by Scott not to give up on Connecticut.
"Our state is at a crossroads. We are facing a historic deficit, yes, and years of failed policies that have created challenges for families and businesses alike," he said. "But now we have an opportunity to pursue the drastic change Connecticut needs to move our state in a new direction."
Fasano noted how Republicans have increased their numbers in the General Assembly and now have a louder voice.
The Connecticut Democratic Party, meanwhile, criticized Republican politicians from Connecticut who attended Scott's event Monday, accusing them of working with the Florida governor to persuade companies to move — a claim some denied on social media.
In a compromise with his own state legislature, Scott now has the new $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to help persuade companies to move from other states. The money can be used for infrastructure and workforce job training.
Besides Connecticut, Scott has visited other states since first taking office in 2011, including California, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. Shortly after his last visit to Connecticut in 2015, he announced Farmington, Connecticut-based United Technologies Corp. was building an innovation and technology center in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida — a project that promised 380 jobs.