Manfred Diel doesn’t see a difference between legislative grants and buying votes.
At a candidate forum on Wednesday night, the Republican challenger for House of Representatives Dist. 66 slammed the program during a debate with Democratic incumbent Joy Hearn and Independent candidate Eugene Saveory, who also criticized the program.
“It seems like all these grants come out just before election time,” Mr. Saveory said.
Rep. Hearn has previously used legislative grants for the East Providence High School softball team and Tap-In though she doesn’t exactly endorse the program.
“The legislative grant program is not one I backed but while it’s in existence I will use it for my constituents,” Rep. Hearn said.
Mr. Diel also criticized Rep. Hearn on the topic of 38 Studios. Mr. Diel said Rep. Hearn voted in favor of the loan guarantee for the failed video game company.
Rep. Hearn didn’t agree. She said the General Assembly approved a loan guarantee program for the state and not a particular business. She said the millions given to 38 Studios was the result of a deal orchestrated by former Republican Governor Donald Carcieri and EDC leadership.
“It was not the General Assembly that gave 38 Studios any money,” Rep. Hearn said. “I did not vote for 38 Studios.”
Other topics broached during the debate included table games for Newport and Lincoln casinos — supported by both Rep. Hearn and Mr. Diel — and reducing itemized tax deductions, which Mr. Saveory described as an “injustice” for the middle class.
All three candidates responded to a question on pensions.
Mr. Saveory said municipalities need more control over pension plans and Mr. Diel said he supports recent pension reform but believes there is more work to be done, such as looking at benefits for current retirees.
Rep. Hearn highlighted pension reform during her opening remarks, pointing to work with the House Finance Committee. Rep. Hearn also said that very few mayors came to the committee with details on how they were reining in pensions at the local level.
Rep. Hearn also called for expansion of RIPTA while Mr. Diel said that agency needs to be audited and evaluated to ensure public dollars are being spent correctly.
Mr. Diel later added he would support a repeal of the state’s affordable housing mandates while both Rep. Hearn and Mr. Saveory said they would favor re-visiting the legislation.