State House Democrats have abandoned a plan to eliminate tax breaks that ESPN said are important to its future in Connecticut.
Tossing out the tax credits the sports giant said it wants is off the table, said state House Speaker Christopher Donovan, a Meriden Democrat.
“We’re putting them back” in the budget, Donovan said Tuesday.
Mike Soltys, an ESPN vice president, said the company is “very appreciative the House leadership has recognized our concerns and the detrimental impact this could have on our business” if the tax increase was enacted.
A tax package approved by a legislative committee in May would strip sales tax exemptions on broadcast equipment, end the tax waiver for purchase of time using satellite or fiber signals and a couple of other breaks that help hold down ESPN’s tax bill.
The tax credit changes sought by the panel are “off the table,” Donovan said during a stop at the Bristol Technical Education Center.
Mayor Art Ward hailed the move.
“Needless to say, it’s good for Bristol and for ESPN,” Ward said. “I’m ecstatic they recognize the contributions of a business such as ESPN.”
The sports giant has grown from a tiny enterprise into one of the world’s broadcasting powerhouses during its 30 years in Bristol. It is easily the city’s largest taxpayer and employer.
“Our world headquarters is in Bristol and we’d prefer to grow right here in Bristol,” Soltys said.
Donovan credited the city’s legislative delegation for pushing to leave the tax breaks sought by ESPN in place
Donovan said that state Reps. Chris Wright and Frank Nicastro, both Bristol Democrats, pushed for ESPN’s agenda.
“They said this is important to us and we said we hear you,” Donovan said.
“Because of their input, it is likely the credits will be restored,” he said.
Gov. Jodi Rell has frequently cited her opposition to any tax increases as officials seek ways to close an $8 billion budget gap. The lieutenant governor, Michael Fedele, warned that if the breaks weren’t left intact, ESPN might leave the state.
Though ESPN never said it might move out, it did say that removing the tax breaks could cause it to reconsider where it opts to grow in the years to come.
There is no budget deal yet between Rell and the legislature. The House and Senate Democrats are not necessarily on the same page either, officials said, but the Democrats will pass a budget by month’s end one way or another, Donovan said.
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