The city’s Republican Party took a strong stance this week against any tax hikes that would crimp ESPN’s growth in Bristol.
Taking aim at state Rep. Chris Wright, a first-term Bristol Democrat who voted for a $3.3 billion tax package that included provisions opposed by the Bristol-based sports colossus, GOP leaders said the state’s fiscal crisis can’t be solved by smacking the companies whose growth is crucial to Connecticut’s future success.
“Can you imagine what Bristol would be without ESPN?” asked TJ Barnes, the city’s Republican chairman. “We are one lucky city.”
Wright said he opposes the tax changes included in the package he voted for and is continuing to work to strip them from the final version. He said he couldn’t oppose the entire tax bill because he didn’t like a few things in it.
But Jill Fitzgerald, the Republican whom Wright defeated in the 77th District last year, said that Wright could have voted against it without any consequences.
The Democrats, she said, “have such a huge majority” in the General Assembly that “they don’t need his vote.”
Fitzgerald said that Wright should have put his district and his community first instead of showing loyalty to party leaders.
Laura Bartok, a party activist, said that Wright is one of a number of new representatives who can expect to see a tough challenge in 2010.
“It’s not going to be a cakewalk,” Bartok said.
Wright said he considers it “a badge of honor” that the GOP has targeted him.
He said that he was elected to serve his northeastern Bristol district, not the rich Republicans of Fairfield County who are pushing so hard to see the state cut critical programs instead of raising taxes.
Wright said he doesn’t want to see taxes rise either. He said he’s working hard to keep any tax hikes as minimal as possible, particularly ones that might cause ESPN to have second thoughts about continuing to expand in Bristol.
Former state House Minority Leader Edward Krawiecki, Jr said he would like to see a push to create a high-tech, communications-related cluster of new businesses in the region that could take advantage of ESPN’s presence.
Bristol could become “a hot spot for technology and high, high IT stuff,” Krawiecki said, if officials work toward that goal.
“It runs straight to the issue you want to talk about with Chris,” Krawiecki told fellow Republicans this week.
Derek Czenczelewski, a GOP City Council hopeful in the 3rd District, said that most of ESPN’s employees are in information technology and communications, not sports broadcasting in particular.
“Technology is always huge,” he said, and ought to be pursued as a way to help Bristol grow.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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