Thursday, July 23, 2009

Racetracks campaign for slots as budget solution

Rep Tobin wants permanent casino gambling at racetracks, including our own fairgrounds, to address the dearth of state revenues, and sets this up as the alternative to temporarily raising the sales tax. The industry estimates that this might bring in close to half a billion clams to state coffers in 2012. That of course does nothing about the problem we have right now, and Joanna's story leaves out the actual budget gap of over two billion and rising.

Expanded gambling looks like free money to Mr Tobin, and to a large extent I suppose it is, since local rather than state authorities will be left to pick up the tab for the resulting societal problems. But more to the point, it would allow the Legislature to look like it's doing something about revenues without taking on the structural problems that got us here in the first place. Neither gambling nor a temporary sales tax will fix the deficit, that's a false dichotomy. The gorilla in the room is residential property taxes, among the lowest in the nation, designed to promote unsustainable growth in housing.

Like any other homeowner I'm not wild about paying more in property taxes. But I'm also unhappy about what's happening to the state and my community as a result of our collective unwillingness to provide the funds necessary to maintain quality of life. More gambling and its social impacts reduce quality of life for all of us, and sends truckloads of cash out of state to shady interests. We should make a better choice.

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