Gov. Raimondo open to public subsidy for PawSox stadium

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said Friday she’s open to providing a taxpayer-backed subsidy to keep the Pawtucket Red Sox in Rhode Island, but it’s too soon to say how much the state is willing to invest.

An outside study of McCoy Stadium released Friday shows the 75-year-old ballpark needs about $68 million in renovations. The cost to tear down the stadium and build in a new one in the same location would be $75 million.

“It all comes down to what’s the price tag?” Raimondo said during a sit-down interview with reporters Friday morning.

Raimondo praised Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien for how he’s worked with the team’s ownership, which announced in 2015 they wanted to build a new stadium in Providence. She said she wants to see how much both Pawtucket and the team is willing to “kick in” before discussing how much the state can provide.

“We have a lot of competing demands,” Raimondo said. “We want to keep our taxes low. We want to cut the car tax. We want to make college affordable. Money doesn’t grow on trees.”

Separately, Raimondo said it is likely she’ll release a policy proposal this year to root out corruption among Rhode Island politicians. Three former state representatives have been charged with unrelated crimes in the last three weeks, but Raimondo said she doesn’t believe corruption is “pervasive” in the state.

Raimondo said “tighter campaign finance laws,” more auditing of political campaign accounts and a line-item veto for the governor are all proposals she could support.

“We are thinking about what actions we can take that might actually make a difference,” Raimondo said.

On her proposal to provide two years of free tuition to new high school graduates attending Rhode Island’s three public colleges, Raimondo said she’s open to compromise “around the edges,” but she feels “very strongly” about the general concept.

Asked about a Providence Journal op-ed written by Roger Williams University President Donald Farish that suggested the proposal should be expanded to include the state’s private colleges, Raimondo said she would support it “if he can find the money.” She said extending the free tuition plan to private schools would “double the cost.”

“The proposal I put forward is affordable and sustainable,” she said.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan