Thursday, October 23, 2008

MoCo Delegation Speaks Out on Slots, Part Two

The Montgomery County Sentinel's series on the MoCo delegation's positions on slots continues. This week, legislators from Districts 16, 17 and 18 reveal their views on the subject. However, only Senators Brian Frosh (D-16) and Jennie Forehand (D-17) and Delegates Susan Lee (D-16), Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-18), and Jeff Waldstreicher (D-18) responded to the Sentinel's questioning. The other legislators went AWOL (although who can doubt Delegate Luiz Simmons' position?). Of the ones who responded, Senator Forehand and Delegates Lee and Gutierrez voted for the referendum while Senator Frosh and Delegate Waldstreicher voted against it.

Senator Brian Frosh (Against):

From 2001 to 2003, Frosh served as co-chair of the Senate Special Committee on Gaming. He says his experience at that position convinced him that slots will burden a community. "These burdens will add to the expense of building new infrastructure to accommodate the crowds, the potential for higher crime rates, bigger crime prevention budgets and beefed up social service programs to address the problems attendant to gambling addiction," he said.

He is also concerned about the argument that the slots amendment will raise money for schools. $660 million of the revenue from slots is earmarked for education. "The state's education budget, currently $5.5 billion, is set according to formulas based on enrollment and other factors," Frosh said. "The budget won't go up because another $660 million is available. Instead, the slots money will shift existing education dollars to be spent in other areas."

"The bottom line is that we're going to have to balance the budget and pay for our schools the old fashioned way: by finding economies and making hard choices," he said. "Slots aren't the answer."
Delegate Susan Lee (Against):

Lee said gambling is an unstable source of revenue for the state. Her biggest concern is the social burden annd costs that slots bring.

"The problems it creates, such as addiction, domestic violence, burden on the criminal justice system, and damage to neighborhoods far outweigh any possible short term revenue to the state," she said.

She said the state needs to do what it has done before to help fix the current budget problem and that it has to come up with more responsible ways to raise revenue, prioritize and make cuts where there are inefficiencies. "We will have to make some very hard choices," she said. "However, slots are not the answer."
Senator Jennie Forehand (Against):

"I know the state needs money, but I plan to vote against the referendum," Forehand said.

Forehand's concern is that a lot of the revenue will go to Maryland's racing industry. "I think the public is better served and comfortable if the money goes to education and other state priorities and not the racing industry," she said. Forehand said that the racing industry does not need the $100 million that is promised to it.
Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez (Against):

Gutierrez says she is 100 percent against allowing slots in Maryland and is doing everything that she can to not let the referendum pass.

"I am very concerned of the social damages that come with slots," she said. "We should be finding better ways to increase a better economic base."

She said that Montgomery County is a good example of economic development and does not want to see it go in the opposing direction. "We should not be selling our soul to the devil."
Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher (Against):

Waldstreicher said slots are the wrong way to go. He also said that the revenue will not show up for several years. "Fiscal year 2009-2010 will not be affected so we will have to address the problem now," he said.

The social costs that slots bring are another of his concerns. "Crime, addiction and other social burdens will affect the state and could possibly add insult to injury," he said.

"We need to focus on the right thing to do for Maryland," he said. "We should not be making a decision on the issue based on political agenda."
We are grateful that no one imitated Delegate Craig Rice's infamous response from last week. But we do wonder what "political agenda" were referenced by Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher. Would you care to elaborate, sir?