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Finneran backs Menino's stance on Fenway funds

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 07/02/2000

s Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the Red Sox continue negotiations on how to finance a new Fenway Park, House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran yesterday gave the mayor a boost by enthusiastically endorsing Menino's push for 100 percent payback on the estimated $140 million city investment to acquire the proposed ballpark site.

"The mayor is hitting the bull's eye," Finneran said in an interview with the Globe yesterday. "I think he's got his finger on the pulse of taxpayers when he insists the city must be guaranteed that it can recoup any investment it makes in the project. It makes good sense."

The speaker also dismissed a plan offered by two city councilors last week calling for the creation of a lottery scratch ticket to help the city recover its investment in the project. Echoing state Treasurer Shannon P. O'Brien, Finneran said new lottery games tend to cannibalize existing games; players desert one game to play another.

Since all of the state's cities and towns are dependent on the lottery for local aid, Finneran said, few lawmakers are likely to agree to divert lottery revenues to Boston.

"Judging from what I've heard back from the members, I don't think that idea has a prayer," Finneran said.

He also ruled out a plan floated last week that suggests the cost of the new ballpark could be dramatically reduced if it were built on state land or over the Massachusetts Turnpike.

"I'd say that has a very, very slim chance of winning support," he said. "We simply don't give away state land for less than full-market value."

Finneran's support is crucial to the project because although recent talks have involved only the city and the Red Sox, a final agreement cannot be reached without the approval of Finneran, Governor Paul Cellucci, and Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham.

By law, state lawmakers must agree to give Menino the additional powers he would need to collect new revenues to recoup the city's investment. The project also is dependent on state funds for up to $100 million in infrastructure improvements in the Fenway area.

Although he remains open to giving the city "appropriate" new revenue streams, Finneran declined yesterday to specify what ballpark financing strategies he would endorse.

"We will review them when the state gets back into the [ballpark financing] talks," he said. "But at the moment, I'd suggest there is strong public opinion in favor of only a limited and well-reasoned role for the state."

The big question yesterday was whether Menino and the Red Sox are close to an agreement or whether ballpark boosters are reading too much into the optimistic statements coming out of City Hall.

There was no financing agreement between the city and team last night, and since both the mayor and the Red Sox once again declined to detail the substance of their financing talks, it's unclear how far apart the two sides are.

But with only four weeks left before the Legislature adjourns for the year, time is running out for the Red Sox on Beacon Hill.

"They are pushing the envelope at this point," Finneran said yesterday.

"The Red Sox project has had a lot of preliminary effort, so it's not as if it would arrive up here as some sort of bombshell. But state lawmakers need sufficient time to carefully consider all the financial implications."

This story ran on page B02 of the Boston Globe on 7/02/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.
 

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