Updated from 2:13 p.m. EDTGeneral Electric ( GE) executives said the decision to slash the company's dividend by 67% earlier this year was the "toughest decision" they had to make, but it was important to maintain the franchise. Speaking at the company's annual shareholder meeting in Orlando, Fla., CFO Keith Sherin said ultimately both he and CEO Jeff Immelt believed the dividend cut "was the right thing to do." In February, GE said it was lowering its quarterly dividend payments to 10 cents a share from 31 cents in order to save $9 billion in cash annually. The environment has been "really tough" and it's been important to maintain the franchise, Sherin said, adding that GE wanted more liquidity to protect against more disruptions. Immelt also said that 2008 was tough and that 2009 would likely be as difficult, adding that it would be difficult to predict how bad the recession is and how long it will last.