Providence, April 21, 2015—Occupy Providence opposes the efforts to give millions in “public assistance” (corporate welfare) to the proposed PawSox stadium in Providence. Specifically, we oppose state funding, funding by the city of Providence, and state and city tax breaks for the project.
The proposals for taxpayer aid are economically senseless. Anyone concerned about Providence’s economy knows that the last thing Providence needs is more tax-exempt land. The PawSox’s current home, McCoy Stadium, is being abandoned after being built with expensive taxpayer funding, and if another new stadium is built with taxpayer assistance, there is no guarantee that the PawSox won’t leave that one again in 5 or 15 years, maybe to move out of state. These kinds of concerns exemplify why even major-league stadiums , when funded by taxpayer money, are commonly regarded as bad deals. Claims have been made that the stadium will contribute to the economy in the nearby area. But if there were to be such economic benefits, they would flow mainly to those favored insiders who are well-connected enough to be awarded favorable terms on the nearby I-195 land, which is now being dispensed in a highly corruptible process. Ordinary Rhode Islanders will be largely left out, though left to bear the burden of the stadium’s taxpayer funding and the resulting budget cuts.
Still, the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation continues to discuss funding this boondoggle. That’s no surprise: the same Commerce Corporation was responsible for awarding other insider-favored deals such as 38 Studios, and also the imprudent state tax breaks offered to Hasbro a couple of years ago merely to shift its headquarters from Pawtucket to Providence. The current proposal is all too reminiscent of these bad deals, and again ordinary Rhode Islanders get no say in the process. The RI Commerce Corporation, like the rest of our political elite, is skilled only in favoring those with clout and not in helping the economy.
If our political elite really had our interest at heart, they would make clear from the beginning that any major taxpayer funding for this project is unacceptable. The fact that they haven’t done this shows that we’re on the road to another bad deal t
hat favors the well-connected.
There is an alternative. Instead of an expensive deal like the PawSox stadium, whose large-scale benefits are hypothetical and whose profits are destined in large part to out-of-state interests, we can do better by ordinary Rhode Islanders. We can reject the propose Medicaid cuts, which hurt wages of ordinary Rhode Islanders by “eradicating the safety net” (as Speaker Mattiello put it). We can cut property taxes for real, ordinary Rhode Islanders instead of a small, favored group of partly out-of-state interests. And we can stop the foolish path of funding those who compete by showing their lack of loyalty to Rhode Island.
If we’re going to compete with other states, let’s compete in turning down these foolish insider deals, just as Massachusetts competed with us by turning down the 38 Studios deal. We can’t afford to devote more and more of our state budget to an ever-increasing variety of foolish corporate welfare schemes, which are poorly targeted in helping the economy. Occupy Providence joins other groups such as the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats in rejecting this deal.