PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - More than half of Rhode Island voters oppose the state's $75 million loan guarantee for Curt Schilling's video game company, but they are willing to pay for wind energy generated off Block Island, our exclusive WPRI 12 poll shows.
The survey of 500 likely voters found just 28 percent favor the loan guarantee for Schilling's 38 Studios, while 54 percent oppose it and 17 percent are not sure whether it's a good idea.
- In-Depth: See a breakdown of the poll results
The numbers are nearly reversed for the Deepwater project , with 56 percent of likely voters saying they would be willing to pay an additional $1.35 to $3 per month for electricity from a small wind farm the company plans to build off Block Island. Only 32 percent oppose doing so, and 12 percent are not sure.
The R.I. Economic Development Corporation agreed in July to provide a taxpayer guarantee for a $75 million private loan to 38 Studios as a way of enticing it to move to Providence. The company has promised to have 450 employees here by 2013. Tax money could be used to repay the loan if the company can't make payments.
Three of the four candidates for governor oppose the 38 Studios guarantee, which is strongly supported by the man they hope to succeed, Gov. Donald Carcieri.
It's "not a popular thing at this point, so obviously the candidates for governor who are against it are basically talking to the voters who are the majority," said Eyewitness News political analyst Joe Fleming.
The deal's lone supporter among the candidates is Republican John Robitaille , who said it was a tough call but the state's economic troubles made him decide it was worth the risk.
"I think there is confusion out there as to what this deal is and what it isn't," Robitaille said. Referring to Democrat Frank Caprio and independent Lincoln Chafee, he said, "I think we have two career politicians that are making a political football out of this rather than looking at what's best for the state of Rhode Island and creating jobs."
Eyewitness News will release more results from the poll - including the latest numbers showing who's leading the race to succeed U.S Rep. Patrick Kennedy - during Thursday's 6 p.m. newscast. The survey was conducted by phone last Wednesday through Sunday by Fleming & Associates.
- More Poll Results: Who's leading the RI gov.race?
Opposition to the 38 Studios deal is broad-based. Older voters were most opposed, with 58 percent saying the EDC should not guarantee the loan, followed by 40- to 59-year-olds (55 percent against) and 18- to 39-year-olds (49 percent against).
Slightly more men than women opposed the deal, at 56 percent and 53 percent respectively, while 20 percent of women were unsure about it compared with 15 percent of men. A majority of Democrats, independents and Republicans all oppose it.
Chafee, who opposed the 38 Studios deal from the start, said voters were right not to trust the EDC because of its track record.
"It's wrong, especially with a governor leaving office," he said. "My pitch to him is to let the new governor, whoever it is, have a vision for Rhode Island."
Caprio expressed support for the deal at first, but he later joined Chafee in opposition, saying the EDC was failing to include basic taxpayer protections in the agreement. "When I got the details they weren't there," he said. "The deal went from bad to worse."
Deepwater Wind, by contrast, has proved far less controversial than 38 Studios, with majority support for the project across ages, genders and parties.
The news comes as lawyers prepare to argue before the R.I. Supreme Court over the R.I. Public Utilities Commission's (PUC) controversial decision to approve a contract between Deepwater and National Grid to buy power from the first of the two wind farms, a smaller development off Block Island.
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