PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WJAR) — Lawmakers in the Rhode Island House on Friday evening approved a plan to help the Pawtucket Red Sox build a new ballpark, with the Senate Finance Committee also giving it the OK later that night.
The House approved the measure on a 53-13 vote, with the Senate also approving the plan 26-4 just before midnight. It will now move to the governor’s desk for her signature.
Still, Senate leaders said the plan is significantly more expensive than one they passed earlier this year. They estimate the House version of the financing plan will cost at least $54 million total for the team and taxpayers over 30 years, with taxpayers funding about $800,000 more per year.
The trade off, apparently, is no risk to taxpayers.
The plan still has the PawSox paying $45 million of $83 million of the cost, with the City of Pawtucket and the state to provide the rest of the funding through so-called "special revenue bonds." Only tax revenue generated directly by the stadium and its surrounding area would pay off the bonds.
Yet, supporters said a new stadium will boost Pawtucket, adding that a new stadium will pay for itself.
“We took a new approach that the team now demonstrates that this approach and this deal is the best thing for the people of Rhode Island and they’re going to make it work.” Rep. Carlos Tobon, a Democrat who represents Pawtucket, said.
Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said if revenues fall short, the state wouldn't need to settle the debt. It's less risky, but more expensive to finance the bonds.
“The state of Rhode Island taxpayer is not the backstop, is not on the hook for the payment of the bonds. The Pawtucket taxpayer is not the backstop for these bonds,” Mattiello told NBC 10 News.
A Senate-approved plan would've guaranteed $23 million in state money and $15 million in city money.
But critics, who are mostly Republicans, are not convinced.
“Legally, I think we’re off the hook, just like legally we were off the with 38 Studios,” Rep. Blake Filippi, a Republican who represents Block Island and Charlestown, told NBC 10. “But practically when Wall Street says to you, ‘You need to backstop this default and if you don’t, we’re going to nail your credit rating,’ are we really off the hook? My fear is this is going to happen again in the future if there is a default.”
Pawtucket Don Grebien has said if lawmakers don't approve a funding bill, the team will move. Worcester, Massachusetts, has been courting the PawSox.
The PawSox, which are the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, have not said whether they like the re-worked plan.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)