Hartford Insurers Use Bailout to Justify City Assistance

Three of the capital city’s employers say Hartford’s controversial bailout from the State of Connecticut are part of the reason why they are comfortable providing financial assistance to the cash-strapped municipality.

The Hartford, Aetna, and Travelers combined for a $10 million payment aimed at helping the city pay for law enforcement, recreation, and the public library system. The insurers have said they are willing to spend an additional $40 million over the next four years so long as Hartford remains on the right track.

“I think these three companies recognize that it’s in their interest as well to have a strong and vibrant capital city,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. “As they’re recruiting talent and looking to retain talent, they have a capital city that’s vibrant, strong, that can be that magnet for talent that we all want to see.”

The CEOs of all three companies pointed to the bailout that was negotiated by Bronin with state lawmakers, and was later brokered with Gov. Dannel Malloy.

The deal stipulated that the state will help Hartford pay upwards of $750 million in ongoing debt payments as a way to stabilize the city’s finances.

Republicans and some Democrats have criticized elements of the deal, arguing those were not the terms laid out during negotiations.

To Mark Bertolini, Aetna’s CEO who even tried to move the company to New York City last year, he directly attributed that agreement as part of the reason for Aetna’s confidence in the future of Hartford.

“We appreciate the efforts made by Mayor Bronin, in cooperation with the state government, to stabilize Hartford's finances,” Bertolini said in a statement. “We will monitor and evaluate the progress being made toward a comprehensive and sustainable financial solution on an annual basis, and will continue to work with the mayor to support these efforts."

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, one of the most vocal critics of the bailout, says the deal’s principles were legitimate, but the outcome was not what he or others in the General Assembly envisioned.

Fasano said in a statement, “The deal negotiated by the governor to assist Hartford for an undefined period of time goes above and beyond what lawmakers negotiated and is not what these insurance companies had asked for to secure their commitment to the city.”

However, long-term stability and a comprehensive plan to address the city’s finances were in fact pre-conditions set for the payments to the city from the insurers.

Travelers CEO Alan Schnitzer wrote, “We applaud the efforts made by Mayor Bronin and state leaders to stabilize Hartford's finances for the time being, and we'll continue to work with them towards a long-term, comprehensive, and sustainable financial solution to the city's economic challenges."

Bronin says the city still has more cutting to do and other changes to make, but says the combination the agreement with the state and the help from the insurers, sets up the city well for the first time in a long time.

“This provides stability for the first time in 20 to 30 years,” Bronin said. “This does not mean that the city of Hartford is flush with cash. Our budgets are going to be tough and tight for a number of years.”

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