The Rhode Island House of Representations Wednesday passed a budget that includes the first repayment for money owed over the state’s losing investment in video-game maker 38 Studios. Taxpayers remain on the hook for a total of about 90 million dollars.
State reps approved the budget on a 52-to-20 vote margin. The spending plan includes two and a half million dollars to pay back bondholders who invested in 38 Studios. Cumberland Rep Karen MacBeth said supporters of the deal deceived lawmakers when the General Assembly voted in 2010 to expand the loan program used to attract 38 Studios.
“They looked us in the face and they lied at us. There wasn’t a cap. They already knew 38 Studio was coming. The increased the amount by 75 million, and now here we are today paying the consequence of it on the backs of the taxpayers," said Macbeth.
Other reps said repaying 38 Studios bonds is the most prudent course for the state. The state Senate is due to vote on the budget Thursday.
Tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge will be delayed until at least February as part of the budget.
The plan also calls for a study on how to fund bridge maintenance.
That led West Warwick Rep Jared Nunes to fear the placement of tolls elsewhere in the state.
“Now we’re going to put it on the West Warwick side because they have fewer legislators. Or we’re going to put into Cranston’s overpass, because they have fewer legislators. It really concerns me that someone else is going to get screwed," said Nunes.
Tiverton Rep John Edwards has been one of the leading opponents of the Sakonnet tolls. He said it’s not a matter of putting up tolls elsewhere than in towns served by the Sakonnet span.
“This is a commuter bridge, representative, used by working class people. It is used by the people who go to work on the island, and we are just trying to find an alternative," said Edwards.
The head of the state DOT, meanwhile, has warned that delaying Sakonnet tolls could prevent the state from ever moving ahead with them
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