Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien is looking for any way to keep the PawSox in his city, to which end he has proposed a “plan B,” if the skeptically scrutinized original proposal doesn’t make it through the General Assembly:
Let Pawtucket get all the state income and sales taxes now generated at McCoy Stadium and let the city finance the entire public portion of the deal, Grebien said at a news conference in City Hall chambers. He told reporters he hadn’t yet shared that message Tuesday with House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello or Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, but he has talked with them on prior occasions about such an option.
Here’s the inescapable problem with any public financing deal: Nobody believes that it won’t end up on the backs of statewide taxpayers if things go wrong. Nobody believes that the General Assembly and governor will sit back and watch as Pawtucket whittles away education spending and tightens screws on labor unions because it can’t raise the money to pay for its end of the deal.
Call that cynicism, if you want, but it seems like a pretty straightforward application of the lessons of recent history. The Rhode Island establishment’s progressive approach to government leaves no room for municipalities to really make their own beds. If circumstances and policies lead them to thrive, the state will find ways to spread the wealth; if they choose poorly and falter, the state will step in.
The only acceptable barrier that remains, therefore, is between government and the private sector. It isn’t a sure thing that politicians won’t step in to save some iconic private-sector brand that blows it, but at least taxpayers have a fighting chance to say, “no.”