The Slots Debate – A View From Oct. 6, 2007

Posted on October 6, 2007

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Gov. Martin O’Malley is trying to build a consensus for his tax proposal. Maryland has a structural deficit which O’Mally proposes to fix by a combination of the following: a 1 cent increase in the sales tax; reform of the income tax to make it more progressive; a $1 per pack increase in the cigarette tax; an increase in the corporate income tax and closing of corporate tax loopholes; a cut in the state property tax; and, of course, introduction of an untold number of slot machines at locations to be named later.  The governor wants a special session of the General Assembly in November to promptly pass his package. Senate President Mike Miller agrees. But others are saying, “Not so fast!” 

Republicans in the state Senate announced this week that they will not supply a single vote for O’Malley’s slots proposal. The Democratic majority in the House of Delegates denied slots to Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich for four years. So Republicans in the Senate are in no hurry to support O’Malley on slots, and they are positively aghast at the thought of increasing any taxes. 

Comptroller Peter Franchot spoke out against slots this week in Baltimore and Silver Spring. Franchot, a Democrat, warned that slots would lead to full gambling casinos, and said slots could not be limited to a few locations.

Steven Pearlstein, the financial columnist, weighed in with a strong critique of the slots proposal in The Washington Post’s business section on Friday. Pearlstein convincingly destroys the proposition that the so-called horse-racing industry should be subsidized by slots.

My prediction: The taxes and slots debate is just getting started. Meanwhile, the Maryland On My Mind blog remains in development and testing. — Bernie

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Posted in: Maryland, Politics, Taxes