STATE HOUSE — The House Republican Caucus will submit legislation requiring the R.I. Commerce Corporation to submit any financial arrangement it may negotiate with any sports entity seeking to build or renovate a stadium in the state.
The financial arrangement would need to be submitted to the General Assembly for approval before it could be finalized. Senate Republicans are adding their support to the legislation.
In 2016, Rhode Island overwhelmingly rejected the proposal to build a new stadium for the new multi-millionaire owners of the PawSox franchise.
“Rhode Island taxpayers have already voiced their opinion, and it was a resounding ‘No.’ The offer to now let the taxpayers own the new stadium does not alter that fact,” said Rep. Kenneth J. Mendonça (District 72, Portsmouth and Middletown), the prime sponsor of the bill.
“The PawSox owners chose to buy this team as a money making venture. They, not the taxpayers, are asking for a new stadium. They are very wealthy and savvy businessmen who can and should pay for their own stadium, if it is in fact, their desire to do so.
“We can’t justify hardworking Rhode Island taxpayers being forced to pay for a new stadium, complete with luxury boxes, and all the best possible amenities for AAA baseball, when they’ve already rejected the idea.”
House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan added, “Giving taxpayers’ dollars to a seasonal sports team with limited job opportunities, through an expensive and dubious system of Commerce Corporation credits, loans and grants, is crony capitalism, not economic development.
“The public should not be fooled. This is literally, insider baseball, ‘political’ insider baseball.
“Rhode Islanders want a vibrant economy with plentiful jobs, from entry to executive levels. That is not what this company is offering our state. This stadium is intended to benefit no one but the millionaire insiders who own the team.”
Representative Morgan went on to say, “Last year, state leaders claimed that state coffers were empty when tolls were pushed through. That harmful action is contradicted by this current push, a short year later to spend over $70 million for a new stadium?
“It just makes no financial sense. A first grader can tell you – this just doesn’t add up.”
The House Minority Caucus’s legislation seeks to grant legislators the ability to vet the proposal and cast votes in the best interests of constituents before the Commerce Corporation is authorized to commit tax money to the PawSox or any other sports team.