During an Oct. 17 forum in Barrington, Mr. Costa, a Republican running for the House District 67 seat, said he did not think it was a good practice for the state to give money to unproven start-up companies. He said instead of giving $75 million to one company, the state should give $750,000 to 100 companies.
Rep. Malik, an incumbent Democrat, said he voted for a state jobs program two and a half years ago — not 38 Studios funding.
“We did not know where that money was going to,” Rep. Malik said.
Mr. Costa said Rhode Island General Assembly members should have realized what they were voting for when legislation for a state loan guarantee program was amended by $75 million.
“They knew exactly what it was for,” Mr. Costa said.
“We have double digit unemployment in this state. What could we have done with $75 million?”
The brief sparring session over Curt Schilling’s failed video game company was one of several topics raised during a debate between the two candidates, though it was far from the only point of contention.
Mr. Costa also slammed his opponent for utilizing legislative grant funds. He said the program may be unconstitutional.
Rep. Malik said he didn’t use any legislative grant funds in prior years but the only people he hurt were constituents. Rep. Malik said his actions mean more than words and he intends to keep using the money for his district as long as it’s available.
Mr. Costa said legislators need to be principled human beings and said there should be a vote on the program.
While the two agreed on recent pension reform, Mr. Costa was critical of its timetable. Rep. Malik said the reform saved $2.8 million for Barrington and $1.4 million for Warren. Mr. Costa said it was a “necessary evil” but added that the state allowed the problem to grow for 15 years before taking action, before they “cut the rug” out from under police officers, firefighters and teachers.
Mr. Costa and Rep. Malik also said the state could stand to cut spending. Rep. Malik said the state can do “a heck of a lot better” while Mr. Costa compared Rhode Island’s budget to New Hampshire. He said the Granite State spends about $1.5 million less than RI with 400,000 fewer people.
Rep. Malik, however, found the remarks disingenuous and pointed to an advertisement for Mr. Costa advocating for restored state funding to the Bristol-Warren School District.
“When you are on the hot seat you have to make tough decisions and I personally don’t think you’re ready for that,” Rep. Malik said.