Gushing adjectives and exaggerations about the long term implications, Governor Gina Raimondo announced Tuesday that she and her administration had finally secured a development deal for part (five acres) of the former I-195 land.
… It’s a transformative project,” Raimondo said during a news conference at Brown University’s Institute for Computational & Experimental Research in Mathematics, which has breathtaking views of Providence’s city skyline. She described the project as “a game-changer.”
The cost to Rhode Island taxpayers? $32,000,000 in corporate welfare. And this is just for two parcels (22 and 25), five acres, of the former Route 195 land. That equates to $6,400,000 acre.
Governor Raimondo calls these obscene hand-outs “a catalyst for more companies to set up shop in the area”. This is obviously false. Very generous taxpayer subsidies only set the state up for more companies to come looking for some hefty corporate welfare of their own. Why would they do otherwise when there is a Governor in office so willing to hand out large chunks of other people’s hard-earned money? In fact, the Governor herself admits there is no guarantee that this will spur additional development, only that she is “confident” that it will.
There is something very wrong that the State of Rhode Island has to actually PAY someone an eye-popping $6,400,000 per acre in order to get prime land in the capital city developed. In order to spur healthy economic development, state leaders need to fix the underlying problems – high taxes, burdensome regulations, sky high construction costs because the state is not right-to-work – not continue to pursue a patently unsustainable and unproductive approach of handing out tax dollars in hopes that the headline will lure the next company here, an approach that does nothing for Rhode Island’s beleaguered families or existing businesses.
All state leaders, including specifically members of the General Assembly who control the public purse strings, share the responsibility for all such hand-outs, including this particularly lavish one. They need to step in, sharply curtail the corporate welfare madness and respectfully ask the Governor to move away from a “if you build it at taxpayer expense, they will come” approach to economic development and towards real, expedited reforms of the state’s business climate. Until this happens, Rhode Island will attract businesses mostly for all the wrong and, therefore, unsustainable reasons.