The two candidates for the RI District 67 House seat that represents parts of Barrington and Warren give voters quite a dichotomy – a State House veteran with 16 years under his belt and a 22-year-old law school student making his first run for public office.
Rep. Jan Malik of Warren, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger, Peter Costa Jr. of Barrington, also differ widely on the 38 Studios fiasco.
They traded barbs on that contentious issue Wednesday night, Oct. 17, in Barrington Town Hall at the “candidates’ forum” hosted by the League of Women Voters.
Malik said he did not vote for the $75 million loan for 38 Studios. He voted for the Job Creation Guaranty Program that gave the RI Economic Development Corporation $125 million to dole out to private companies, recipients unknown at the time.
“We did not know where the money was going,” Malik said. “That was up to the EDC.”
Costa is not convinced. He believes the legislature knew exactly where the money was going because the initial $50 loan program became $125 million with the $75 million for 38 Studios.
And even if it wasn’t spelled out in the legislation, Costa said, “there is no reason to give money to a man who has never been in business.”
He was referring, of course, to former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, who started the video game company with the loan backing up his own money.
“We could have given $750,000 to one hundred companies,” said Costa, “not one.”
“I agree,” said Malik. “We should not have voted for the $125 million for the EDC.”
If the “separation of powers” legislation that became law a few years ago did not exist, he said, legislators sitting on those boards and commissions – not political appointees -- would have more control over them. The loan may never have happened.
Costa seemed a bit flustered at first about separation of powers and then chose not to respond to Malik’s comment.
Malik and Costa also squabbled over legislative grants – one of the six questions tossed at them by voters submitting index cards.
“There are no votes on this taxpayer money,” said Costa. "Legislators just run upstairs to Gordon Fox's office. I think that is unconstitutional.”
Malik said he did not take legislative grants for four years, but that hurt the constituents in his district. Until the system is changed, he said, he will now give back to the constituents with those grants.
“Any principled person would get a bill introduced to eliminate them,” said Costa.
“My actions speak louder than words,” said Malik. “I will always give back to my constituents now unless things change.”
Both candidates support pension reform and the millions it will save. It was a necessary evil, said Costa, even though the legislature didn’t take action until after years of unfunded liabilities.
Costa also sees millions of dollars in unnecessary spending in the state budget.
“I think we can find ways to cut the state budget,” he said, which is far higher than New Hampshire, with 400,000 less people.
The state can do better, Malik agreed, but the cuts made to social services, for instance “hurt people.” That cannot be overlooked when cutting a budget.
Malik also slammed Costa for talking about budget cuts while running an ad that advocates more money for the Bristol-Warren schools.
“When you’re on the hot seat you have to make tough decisions and I personally don’t think you’re ready for that,” Malik said.
The forum was recorded for broadcast on Full Channel 9 six times: Oct. 20 at 12:30 pm; Oct. 24 at 8 am; Oct. 29 at 2 pm; Oct. 31 at 8 am; Nov. 3 at 12:30 pm and Nov. 5 – Election Day eve – at 2 pm.