HARTFORD — State Rep. Rob Sampson late Wednesday voted against a controversial proposal that would see the state spend more than $290 million to cover costs of a new genetic testing laboratory in exchange for a guarantee of just 300 new jobs over a decade. Even worse, Sampson said, is that Maine-based Jackson Laboratories can walk away from the Farmington site at the end of 10 years with no strings attached. Both chambers of the legislature approved the measure, with Sampson among the House Republicans who cast opposition votes in the 101-41 tally. The state will borrow $291 million for the project and pay an estimated $150 million in interest on top of that.
“I’m all for encouraging the development of new, innovative companies in Connecticut, but for me to even consider forking over that kind of taxpayer money I need a lot of information,” said Sampson, a member of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee. “Unfortunately, this project was cloaked in secrecy and doublespeak from day one.”
The governor’s administration, Sampson said, presented the project in a way that made it appear that Jackson Laboratory is making an investment in the building.
Under the proposal, however, the state would pay for the construction costs of a genetic research facility on the University of Connecticut ’s campus in Farmington and supplement Jackson ’s operating expenses for the first decade. Only after the eleventh year would Jackson Laboratories spend more than Connecticut to operate the facility.
But there’s no guarantee that Jackson will remain in the state beyond the 10-year mark, and it’s a gamble whether the company will succeed. Jackson is renowned in the research world for supplying genetically-altered mice for testing, but its move here will see the company branch into genomic medicine—a different business model altogether.
“Honestly, I am glad they are coming. It’s just that we had a responsibility to the taxpayers to make a smart investment and do the same due diligence as if we were making a private capital venture and that didn’t happen.” said Sampson, adding that should Jackson be successful, Connecticut will see little of the benefit. “Our state won’t share in any revenue from patented products created through the facility’s work.”
The governor’s administration has been unwilling to reveal its memorandum of understanding with Jackson, a fact that troubles Sampson and many other Republican legislators at the Capitol. Similar information-related issues popped up in Florida , a state that passed Jackson before Connecticut ’s governor offered his taxpayer handout.
Sampson and Republicans were at odds with the governor’s administration and its refusal to provide basic detail on the deal, consider stronger security options, or to engage in a simple independent review of the “indirect jobs” calculations.
“The entire Jackson effort was hurried through the legislature without enough facts, too few guarantees, and way too much money,” Sampson said.