Stadium deal the hot topic at ‘Eggs and Issues’
LINCOLN — House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello told a gathered crowd of local elected officials and members of the business community that the House of Representatives continues to work on a deal that would keep the Pawtucket Red Sox in Pawtucket at a new stadium downtown, while shifting away some of the risk from the taxpayers.
Mattiello was the keynote speaker at Wednesday morning’s Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce “Eggs and Issues” breakfast at Kirkbrae Country Club. While Mattiello touched on a number of issues – from the state’s budget to school construction – many in attendance were curious about where
things stand with the financing proposal to build a PawSox stadium on Apex land in downtown Pawtucket.
The proposal for the $83 million ballpark was approved by the state Senate in January, but it’s lingered in uncertainty since then, as the matter has yet to go before the House of Representatives for a discussion or vote.
“The PawSox, we’re working on that,” Mattiello said during the chamber’s breakfast on Wednesday morning. “I said that it would have to be fair to the taxpayers and the taxpayers would have to understand and support the deal.”
“Citizens sometimes get frustrated and think elected officials don’t listen to them … I think we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.
The House Speaker then said it is “difficult” to create a public-private partnership when the public partner is saying no. He cited a poll that said 60 percent of people questioned have objected to the proposals vetted in the public thus far.
“I think that you can’t be a thriving, successful community economy with people being frustrated with their government. You have to align them. There’s no choice. It’s our responsibility,” he said. “That means people like me had better make sure we listen to the public. It’s not a perfect science but I do my best.”
Mattiello further said that polling indicates that when the taxpayers’ risk is taken out of the formula, people are more supportive of the deal to relocate the PawSox to downtown Pawtucket. He said the House is trying to come up with a framework for a deal that would mitigate risk to be self-funding, which he said the public could support.
“I think we have a framework that will address those concerns because I do think the PawSox are part of the fabric of the state,” he said. “People are willing to let them go to Massachusetts but much rather prefer they stay in state.”
“We’re working on that, talking about a framework that might serve the public’s interest better,” he continued. “It gets close to 60 percent in favor when you take the risk out, that’s the direction we have to move in in terms of the legislation.”
John C. Gregory, president and chief executive officer of the Chamber, introduced Mattiello as a “friend of business … A real, real pro-business guy,” citing the reduction in corporate taxes, the elimination of the sales tax businesses previously paid on electrical bills, and improving the state’s job climate.
“Governing is about collaboration,” Mattiello said. “About getting ideas together, being at the table … Think of how much better the business environment is as a result of all of those accomplishments. We are far better off but we have work to do, but we’re moving in the right direction.”
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello speaks during the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues Breakfast at Kirkbrae Country Club in Lincoln Wednesday morning.