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Proposal would slow Sox plan, Senate leader wants budget accord first

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 03/31/00

Just as the Boston Red Sox are gearing up to detail how much public investment they need for their proposed new $600 million ballpark, Republican legislative leaders threatened to deal a blow to the team's timetable.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Senate Minority Leader Brian Lees said he and House Minority Leader Francis L. Marini, Republican of Hanson, would propose that legislators delay action on the Red Sox plan until lawmakers reach preliminary agreement on next year's state budget.

"I'm not saying I'm for or against the Red Sox plans, but it appears this project could involve hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayers' money," Lees said. "I think we should at least get an idea of how much money we will have in the budget first."

Lees, Republican of East Longmeadow, won't officially file his proposal until next week, and only seven of the 40 state senators are Republicans, so it's unclear how much support he could muster for the measure. The House has a similarly lopsided membership, with just 29 Republicans, and Republican Governor Paul Cellucci is a strong supporter of the team's proposal.

However, if adopted, Lees's order could delay hearings on the Sox plan by a month or more. And for ballpark opponents and supporters,

timing is key.

While the Red Sox have not yet specified how much public investment they need, team officials have made it clear they hope they can reach an agreement with lawmakers on infrastructure aid for the project this year - before rising interest rates and construction costs adds tens of millions of dollars to the price tag.

Since this is an election year, lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn in July, which leaves the Red Sox four months to conduct hearings and drive their proposal home. Hoping to discourage Red Sox chief executive John Harrington, opponents are pressing lawmakers to delay consideration of the team's proposal until next year.

The Red Sox declined to comment on Lees's remarks last night. However, ballpark boosters noted that Lees did not oppose state aid for the New England Patriots' new stadium last year.

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