As the Maryland General Assembly debates the state's budget crunch in special session, I have come to the conclusion that I must oppose the use of slots to close the budget gap. I have no problem with gambling and would actually like to see table games as well as slots. But right now, in this atmosphere, I must oppose slots.
There are a number of good reasons that people have to support or oppose slots, and everyone has good arguments. My issue with the way slots are being handled in the special session is two-fold.
First, as I have noted before, I think putting slots on a referendum is political cowardice to the extreme. Then making public the notion that failure to pass slots carries a lot of "catches" meaning that some "tax breaks" will not be enacted or money for schools, healthcare and other programs will be jeopardized is essentially blackmail of the voters by politicians who lack the spine and huevos to do what needs to be done, that is rein in our prolifigate spending.
Second, while the slots measures will no doubt generate a lot of revenue, that revenue is a crutch, no an addiction twice as bad as any gambling addiction. Legislators will get addicted to the revenue stream that slots and gaming generates and will not learn that the solution to a budget crisis is to tighten spending, cut back on non-essential services or find better and cheaper ways of providing vital services. So instead of fiscal responsibility, legislators, assuming the slots referendum passes, will get a rush of being able to "solve" our budget crunch without too much damage to their political fortunes. That is a rush this state can ill-afford.
The addiction wounds not only the current General Assembly but gets the state government, and local governments, hooked on a financial drug that permits them to spend prolifigately without consequence. This is the ultimate destruction of the slots addiction. If slots would be used to REPLACE income tax or sales tax or property tax streams, thereby giving a tax break to the average Marylander then I could support the use of slots to generate funds for the state. But right now slots are being used to AUGMENT revenue streams with no real cuts in spending. So instead of living within the means provided, Uncle Marty's Strategy is to expand the pockest of the state, rather than cut the spending.
Despite the rhetoric, slots will not put us on a path to fiscal health, but on a descent into addiction from which we may never recover.