TOUGH BREAKS? Chafee says that he would be open to scaling back incentives and tax breaks, but can’t discuss it more until his budget is unveiled this month.
PBN PHOTO/FRANK MULLIN
LOOKING BACK: Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee called the 38 Studios downfall the “big event of 2012.” He said there was a lot of support for the EDC’s deal with the video game company, but not much admission of “poor decision-making” in the aftermath of the collapse.
In 2012, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee got the chance to say “I told you so” to the sizable chunk of the business community that supported the 38 Studios LLC loan deal, and he’s taken advantage of the opportunity. But opposition from the business community has helped frustrate many of Chafee’s top fiscal proposals since he took office and critics say he’ll need to work with corporate Rhode Island, not fight it, to turn the state economy around.
PBN: You’ve called for an end to “irrational negativity” in Rhode Island, but many people don’t see much improvement. What have you accomplished on the economic front this year?
CHAFEE: The three categories that we are happy to see being positive: the unemployment numbers, the revenue and the voters’ confidence in approving the bond issues. In the unemployment numbers, for the first time since August 2006, the five areas the federal government tracks were positive.
PBN: Isn’t some of that a factor of just how far things had fallen, that at some point the numbers had to go up by comparison?
CHAFEE: I wouldn’t say that, because I am talking about half of 2006 and 2007. Those were good years. It just shows how hard it is to get all five going in the right direction in one month.
PBN: And you take credit for that?
CHAFEE: Yes. All three of these areas I take credit for. My philosophy, which is under some fire for being very deliberate from critics saying “no sense of urgency,” is just different from the Hail Mary, end-arounds and Statue-of-Liberty plays. That’s not my style. I am methodical, grind it out, take care of basics, like customer service. It’s not flashy, but obviously it is working.
PBN: Speaking of the Hail Mary attempt, you were opposed to the 38 Studios deal before it happened, so your administration probably won’t pursue something similar. But has anything been done to prevent it from happening again down the road, when you are not in office?
CHAFEE: We capped that [Job Creation Guaranty] program at $10 million, which is still a lot of money, but less than the $75 million to 38 Studios. That was one of the first acts I took even before 38 Studios [collapsed] at EDC. The [thinking] was, how about the businesses that have been here for years and would love to have access to that kind of capital. If it is all going to one basket, that precludes all these other businesses that never have a shot at it. I can’t speak for other administrations, but while I am here we are going to be very, very careful with that money.
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