HARTFORD ——After sharp clashes throughout the day, the state legislature voted Wednesday in favor of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's controversial plan to recruit the nonprofit Jackson Laboratory to Farmington with a $291 million offer to construct a new building in return for creating 300 direct jobs over the next 10 years.
The measure passed in the Senate 21-14 on a strict party line vote as the Democrats backed Malloy. Shortly after 10:30 p.m., the measure passed 101-41 in the House of Representatives as eight Republicans broke with most of their caucus in favor of the proposal.
With manufacturing and other industries in decline in the Northeast, Democrats said that Connecticut needs to invest in the fast-growing bioscience industry in order to kick-start the economy and lower the state's 8.9 percent unemployment rate. State officials project that the venture will be so successful that it will eventually create more than 6,600 direct and spinoff jobs over the next 20 years, including high-paid positions in other bioscience companies and restaurant, real estate, and retail jobs that are needed to service those workers.
"Yes, this is about jobs – 6,800 of them,'' Malloy said in a statement. "But it's also about a lot more than that. It's about making Connecticut a leader in a growth industry.''
Sen. Theresa Gerratana, a New Britain Democrat, said that Jackson promises to make future advances in the field of personalized medicine to help in the treatments of Alzheimer's disease, cancer, and Down syndrome, among others. That would be done as the scientists in Farmington study the interaction of genes in an attempt to make medical breakthroughs.
"What is genomic medicine? It is the medicine of the 21st century. It is the medicine of the future,'' Gerratana told colleagues on the Senate floor. "The doctor can understand the very code of the cells of the disease. This is the way that medicine will go.''
But Republicans said that the state would be spending far too much money at $291 million, plus another $120 million in interest, including a free building for Jackson. They noted that, as a nonprofit, Jackson will not pay corporate taxes to Connecticut or local property taxes to Farmington on 17 acres at the University of Connecticut Health Center campus. They said Connecticut needs to be cautious about spending more tax money in a state that recently had the largest tax increase in its history and has the highest per capita debt in the nation. Without architectural drawings, they also said, the state cannot know the true cost of the building, even though it has been set at $144 million for the structure and $47.3 million for scientific and technological equipment.
Republicans said the state had cut much better deals, including one announced this week in which NBC Sports will bring 450 jobs at an average of $70,000 per year to a former Clairol hair dye plant in Stamford. The Jackson deal, they noted, is far more expensive and creates jobs at a slower pace.
"Waiting 10 years for 300 jobs is preposterous,'' said Sen. John Kissel, an Enfield Republican.
Sen. L. Scott Frantz, a Greenwich Republican, said he was happy that Jackson intends to come to Connecticut, but added that the deal is far too lucrative for Jackson and far too risky for state taxpayers. Unlike an offer of 10 percent in Florida in a deal that eventually failed, there was nothing mentioned in Wednesday's bill about the state receiving any royalties from Jackson's experiments.
"There is no provision for Connecticut or UConn to share in the fruits of their labor,'' Frantz said.
Frantz and others questioned estimates that Jackson and other businesses will eventually create more than 6,600 jobs overall. A highly successful investor who operates his own firm in Greenwich, Frantz said that projecting jobs over a 20-year period is "a bit of a black art, a black science'' that is often incorrect.
"I'm just wondering what the rush is,'' Frantz said of Jackson. "I don't think we've done due diligence. Florida said no. A red flag went up.''
Besides no corporate taxes for the state, there will be no payments in lieu of taxes to Farmington because Jackson is a nonprofit and is not a state entity. Previously, some lawmakers thought that Farmington would receive $700,000 in payments of lieu of taxes, but that will not happen, officials said.
While Republicans in both the Senate and House of Representatives said the process was a rush job that was hatched in secret behind closed doors, a high-ranking Democrat said the deal had been properly vetted by the governor's budget office and the state Department of Economic and Community Development.
"This is not being rushed in any way, shape, manner or form,'' said Sen. Eileen Daily, a Westbrook Democrat who co-chairs the tax-writing finance committee. "I would contend we are not rushing. It has had ample time.''
Sen. Steve Cassano, a Democrat and former mayor of Manchester, said that there were concerns about the deal before the now-successful Buckland Hills mall was constructed. Beyond the anchor stores, the mall has been so successful that the businesses have gone beyond Manchester and have spilled over into South Windsor.
"The most difficult idea that we had to sell was the spinoffs,'' Cassano said. "I think we have the same situation today.''
After Cassano finished, Sen. Leonard Suzio, a conservative Republican from Meriden, stood up to say that he worked in biotech 25 years ago on the business management side for a leading-edge company that was involved in human clinical trials on the AIDS vaccine.
"This was 25 year ago. We still don't have an AIDS vaccine,'' Suzio told his Senate colleagues, adding that the Jackson deal is "a lose-lose proposition for Connecticut taxpayers, no matter what happens.''
Another issue that raised controversy was the Malloy administration's refusal to release the letter of intent or memorandum of understanding that outlined the details of the deal between Jackson and the state — despite making constant statements about "transparency'' in government over the past 10 months. Malloy's senior adviser, Roy Occhiogrosso, said Wednesday that the documents would not be released because they contain trade secrets. In the same way, Jackson cited trade secrets when it did not reveal similar information when it was negotiating in Florida.
"I thought we were talking about transparent government,'' Suzio said. "Redact all of the confidential stuff and show us the basics of the deal.''
Courant staff writer Jon Lender contributed to this report.