MANCHESTER, Conn. Now that nearly a dozen other states are bidding for General Electric to move its headquarters out of Fairfield, Connecticut probably will lose the 800 jobs there. Merely to keep something it already has, Connecticut is far less able to pay and to justify paying GE's extortion than other states will be able to pay and justify paying GE to get something new.
Paying GE to stay would incur a financial loss for Connecticut. But a state that used cash grants and tax breaks to pay GE to relocate and promise to stick around for a while would gain jobs, personal-income and property-tax revenue from GE employees, and general commerce to offset the expense.
Connecticut might be able to justify paying GE to expand here. But GE isn't planning expansion. Rather, the corporation is upset about the "unitary tax" just enacted by the General Assembly and Gov. Dan Malloy, under which a corporation's worldwide income is subjected to state taxation. Many states have unitary taxation, but while it may be fair, Connecticut's avoidance of it had been an advantage in attracting and keeping businesses, just as the state's avoidance of an income tax was a draw until 1991.
Presumably Connecticut could mollify GE only by repealing unitary taxation or subsidizing GE in some way that in effect would reimburse the tax. But repealing the tax would require the governor and legislature to raise other taxes or cut spending, while reimbursing GE its new tax would invite all big corporations in the state to demand the same treatment even if they had to threaten to move out as GE has done.
If keeping GE induces Connecticut to repeal unitary taxation and start making policy changes to save money and start putting the public interest over the special interest, the corporation will have done the state a service. But the corporation also may do the state a service if it leaves, for then the state may start to realize that paying extortion to businesses is no substitute for ordinary good and efficient government in pursuit of the public interest.
With a little luck GE's departure from Connecticut would end state government's policy of pretending that mere political patronage is economic development.
New London's is the latest municipal government to "ban the box" -- that is, to remove from city job application forms the box asking if an applicant has a criminal record. State government already has done the same thing. It is said that the question discourages otherwise qualified applicants who are trying to rebuild their lives and that, if an applicant is considered seriously, a criminal records check will be done on him anyway.
This is politically correct but not persuasive. For the application forms with the "box" don't say that anyone with a criminal record will be disqualified automatically. Instead the forms with the "box" signify that a criminal record may be relevant to job qualifications, which is why applicants are supposedly to be subject to a criminal records check at some point before hiring.
That is, forms with the "box" tell the whole truth while forms without the "box" mislead.
Further, forms with the "box" deprive personnel departments of an excuse to forget to do criminal records checks. Forms with the "box" remind personnel departments to be conscientious.
That such reminders may be needed was demonstrated by the massacre in June at the church in Charleston, S.C. The perpetrator should have been disqualified from purchasing his guns because he recently had admitted a narcotics offense, but that admission was not properly recorded in federal, state, and local law-enforcement databases.
Since government databases can be mistaken and since personnel departments can be negligent, job applicants themselves should continue to be asked at the outset if they have criminal records. While it's politically incorrect, it's a lot safer.
Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.