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Friday, June 5, 2015

GE threatens to leave Connecticut UPDATED

A non-blogging friend has brought to my attention the fact that General Electric is threatening to move its corporate headquarters out of Connecticut in response to proposed tax increases in the state budget. The company, based in Fairfield, objects to increases in the taxes for data processing and corporate headquarters. Insurance companies Aetna and Travelers have also issued similar threats.

In GE's case in particular, this is pretty rich. The New York Times reports that GE made $14.2 billion in 2010 and received a federal tax refund of $3 billion. It is a company that touts bringing manufacturing jobs back from China but conveniently omits mentioning that the new jobs, in Louisville, pay $13/hour rather than the $22/hour they paid before they left for China. A model of corporate virtue it ain't, yet President Obama sees fit to lean on chief executive officer Jeffrey Immelt as one of his top business advisers.

Regular readers no doubt recall that every time a threat like this is made, vultures start to swoop in to attract the potential relocator to their state with a long list of goodies. So it should come as no surprise that a mere three days after GE first floated this idea, Tampa, Florida, has put GE in in its sights. We've seen this story many times before: Boeing and Sears immediately spring to mind. As always, the possibility of receiving relocation subsidies makes relocation less expensive and makes it more likely that a company's current home will have to give concessions to make it stay. Job piracy and job blackmail are intimately related.

As my friend points out, it's not surprising that Connecticut is running a big budget deficit. In just the past few years, according to the Good Jobs First Megadeals database (March 2015 spreadsheet update), the state gave $313.75 million to Schupp & Grochmal (2007), $89.5 million to Starwood Hotels (2009), $291 million to Jackson Laboratory (2011), $115 million to Bridgewater Associates (2012), and a whopping $400 million to United Technologies (2014). This last deal is fully 20% of the entire 2-year budget deficit facing the state, $2 billion.

A showdown is looming in this newest case of raw corporate power. Yesterday, the Connecticut legislature passed the budget, though leaders signaled a willingness to consider small changes when it comes back for a special session. The same day, however, Immelt emailed employees to let them know a task force had been set up to look into relocation.

Stay tuned!

Update: More evidence that GE is a whiny, hyper-aggressive tax avoider: