TOM WARD – Kick-starting Pawtucket; new gas tax hike coming?

TOM WARD – Kick-starting Pawtucket; new gas tax hike coming?

I’ll be deep into retirement as the plan unfolds, so for now, let me prematurely congratulate Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien and his team, who attracted a group named Fortuitous Partners to the city with a $400 million plan for a new riverfront soccer stadium, apartment and retail complex, and hotel/indoor sports facility. The development is planned for the “Tidewater” section of the riverfront once owned by Valley Gas, and land across from it. The hotel/indoor sports complex is set for the Apex land, if all goes well.

Let’s look 10 years ahead. Can you imagine a world where baseball is fading and the new Worcester “WooSox,” the long-gone Pawtucket Red Sox, are struggling? Meanwhile, soccer rises to meet the demand of an immigrant population that embraces the sport? Wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants to the Red Sox? And for Pawtucket, “fortuitous” indeed!

I’m not sure I see that future in full, and my friend Arlene Violet in her column this week has her doubts, too. With $70 million to $90 million in tax incentives on the line, we both hope for the best, but Arlene wonders if enough objective, expert study has gone into the project.

I will just add: Can we have someone new construct the proposed footbridge over the Seekonk River? Let’s not repeat the state DOT. fiasco and allow a $2 million footbridge balloon in cost to $23 million, as recently happened in Providence, shall we?

I admit I don’t enjoy soccer, though like most dads I loved watching my kids play. The last day my fourth child kicked a soccer ball was the day I retired from fanhood. Soccer’s not my thing. At all. But I know demographics, and Rhode Island is changing. I wish Pawtucket and its partners the very best of luck.

Big gas tax hike?

Can your family handle a large increase in the gasoline tax? Will the cost of your Boston commute soon skyrocket? Or are you happy to pay your “fair share” in the effort to slow climate change and help save the planet?

You may not have heard much about TCI, the Transportation Climate Initiative. It’s a collaboration between 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, working together to lower carbon emissions. Next on their agenda is getting all of us to use a lot less gasoline. The most effective way to do that is to increase the price, perhaps as much as 24 cents per gallon (but also quite possibly less).

Sounding the alarm now is the R.I. Center for Freedom & Prosperity, a conservative group in the state. They are concerned with TCI because it will inevitably reduce everyone’s freedom and prosperity. They expect an announcement on this from the Raimondo administration, or TCI itself, next week, on Dec. 17. Mike Stenhouse, Center CEO, also warns that he fears a tax increase end-run of the General Assembly, something he says is unconstitutional. On that, we agree.

A further concern is that the state will collect more money for a “good cause” – reducing climate change – and then misspend it. We’ve done this before with electricity (our costs are among the highest in the U.S.), and what are we getting for it besides all of our woodlands being bulldozed for solar farms? Not smart.

So keep your eyes and ears open, Rhode Island. Another harmful tax, one that hurts the poor and working class the most and sets our state’s lousy economy even further back, may be just over the horizon.

Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze newspapers.