Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jackson Laboratory, The Done Deal

Jackson Laboratory has found some important friends in high places in Connecticut. Among them are Governor Dannel Malloy and, almost certainly, the Democratic caucus in the General Assembly, which has tended thus far to march to the music of Mr. Malloy’s drum on all issues of importance. Here and there, critics of the deal privately arranged between the governor and Jackson have surfaced.

“Republicans,” one commentator wrote, “are right to question the deal and get as much information as possible. But by the experts’ accounts, this is a good risk for Connecticut. And as in so many other ways, Connecticut should not be like Florida.”

Jackson was considering a move to Florida, but the deal in that state was never consummated. It has become part of the narrative of Connecticut Democrats supporting the deal that the governor of Florida failed to engage in the negotiations and so the state lost out on a promising deal that a wide awake Connecticut governor thereafter snatched from Florida’s jaws.

Connecticut 1, Florida 0.

Mr. Malloy, an activist governor, has vowed to remake Connecticut. Previous governors have been content in improving the general business climate in the state so that all businesses large and small, relying upon a set of governmental laws and regulations that did not favor one business over another, could plot their futures and compete together on what former Attorney General Richard Blumenthal use to call “a level playing field.” In bygone days of yore, if a regulation or a law did not apply equally to the local barber shop and a large employer such as Pratt & Whitney, that law or regulation would die in utero, because in the glory days of the republic laws and regulations were general and equitable. In the modern period, brimful with lobbyists and crony capitalists, governors see fit to determine the economic future of states by remaking business environments -- while in the process rewarding their friends and punishing their enemies.

Oh, happy day.

The “deal” to which the commentator above referred is, of course, the “private arrangement” worked out between Mr. Malloy and Jackson Laboratory to move the Jackson’s research operations to the UConn Health Center (UCHC) in Farmington.

Prior to the deal, Mr. Malloy had awarded the health center nearly a billion dollars, presumably to improve its failing operations. The installation of Jackson at the reconfigured UCHC will cost Connecticut taxpayers an additional $291 million -- initially. UCHC, a failing enterprise before Mr. Malloy and the Democratic dominated General Assembly decided to douse it with money, has been a tax sponge for decades. Jackson Laboratories is a successful non-profit business, which means that, unlike other overtaxed businesses in Connecticut, the research laboratory will not be returning tax dollars to the state. As a general rule, non-profits are tax revenue losing operations because, among other reasons, they do not produce a taxable product. The tax revenue value of Jackson rests in its magnetic quality: It is supposed by eternally optimistic Democrats that a research complex involving Jackson and Connecticut’s educational institutions will in time attract to the state tax revenue producing businesses.

Unlike Jackson, Pfizer of New London, a large pharmaceutical company that also engages in research, is a tax revenue producer. Interestingly, Pfizer was given tax credits and loans by the state when it opened operations, but recently the company had moved jobs out of state after the deal between the company and the state had been fulfilled and tax reductions had disappeared.

As a former communications director for state Democrats, the commentator above may, at least emotionally and ideological, still have a dog in the fight, but he generously acknowledges that “Republicans are right to question the deal and get as much information as possible.”

And there is the rub.

Some Republicans, much to the annoyance of Mr. Malloy and Roy Occhiogrosso, the governor’s chief cook and bottle washer, are asking for information that has not been forthcoming. They want to see the agreement arranged between Mr. Malloy and Jackson before they vote to commit tax money to what may or may not be a promising project. Their request has sent the deal makers into a crouch position that revolves around trade secrets. The General Assembly, which will be asked to pony-up the tax money that will keep the UCHC afloat for the near future, appears to have swallowed this lame excuse; even top military secrets that the U.S. government is loath to share with Wikileaks are provided on demand to the relevant overview committees in the U.S. Congress, possibly because national congressmen still take seriously their constitutional obligation to represent the will of the people to both presidents and lobby infested businesses. On such occasions, damaging information, made available to the committees, is redacted before the committee reports to congress and the people.

In a recent hearing that will determine the fate of millions of tax dollars, state legislators were told they had less than two hours to question representatives from Jackson. The people’s representatives were limited to one question apiece, and when Senator Leonard Fasano, the second-ranking Senate Republican, said he wanted to see the written agreement signed between the governor and Jackson, he was told to go fish.

"Everybody understands the term 'trade secrets' - meaning they are pieces of information that you don't want your competitors to know about,” said gubernatorial mouthpiece Occhiogrosso. “The law says we can't release the document. What he asked for, he can't get by law.''

At least not before the shameless, representation averse, rubberstamping General Assembly votes in favor of the funding.
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